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BBC News – Bee deaths: EU to ban neonicotinoid pesticides

Bee deaths: EU to ban neonicotinoid pesticides

Comments (450)  Honeybees are vital for pollinating crops – a job that would be very costly without them

Continue reading the main story Related StoriesBee campaigners march on Parliament Watch [/news/science-environment-22312105] Ban pesticides to save bees, say MPs [/news/science-environment-22021104] Pesticides ‘damage brains of bees’ [/news/science-environment-21958547]

A vote in the EU has paved the way for the European Commission to restrict the use of pesticides linked to bee deaths in scientific studies.

There is great concern across Europe about the collapse of bee populations.

Neonicotinoid chemicals in pesticides are believed to harm bees and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators.

But many farmers and crop experts argue that there is insufficient data.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban – not enough to form a qualified majority. According to EU rules the Commission will now impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids.

The Commission says it wants the moratorium to begin no later than 1 July this year.

The UK did not support a ban – it argues that the science behind the proposal is inconclusive. It was among eight countries that voted against, while four abstained.

Wild species such as honey bees are said by researchers to be responsible for pollinating around one-third of the world’s crop production.

There is heated debate about what has triggered the widespread decline in bee populations. Besides chemicals, many experts point to the parasitic varroa mite, viruses that attack bees and neglect of hives.

After Monday’s vote the EU Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, said “the Commission will go ahead with its text in the coming weeks”.

“I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22bn euros (£18.5bn; $29bn) annually to European agriculture, are protected.”

Continue reading the main story What exactly are Neonicotinoids?Nicotine is not just lethal to humans in the form of cigarettes, but the chemical is also extremely toxic to insectsNeonicotinoid pesticides are new nicotine-like chemicals and act on the nervous systems of insects, with a lower threat to mammals and the environment than many older spraysPesticides made in this way are water soluble, which means they can be applied to the soil and taken up by the whole plant – they are called “systemic”, meaning they turn the plant itself into a poison factory, with toxins coming from roots, leaves, stems and pollenNeonicotinoids are often applied as seed treatments, which means coating the seeds before planting.

Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said Monday’s vote “makes it crystal clear that there is overwhelming scientific, political and public support for a ban.

“Those countries opposing a ban have failed.”

An EU vote last month was inconclusive, so the Commission proposal went to an appeals committee on Monday – and again the countries were split on the issue.

Some restrictions are already in place for neonicotinoids in France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia.

The three neonicotinoids are clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam.

A report published by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in January concluded that the pesticides posed a “high acute risk” to pollinators, including honeybees.

However, it added that in some cases it was “unable to finalise the assessments due to shortcomings in the available data”.

Intensive lobbying

There was ferocious lobbying both for and against in the run-up to Monday’s vote, the BBC’s Chris Morris reports from Brussels.

Nearly three million signatures were collected in support of a ban. Protesters against neonicotinoids rallied in Westminster on Friday.

Campaign organiser Andrew Pendleton of the environmental group Friends of the Earth said “leading retailers have already taken action by removing these pesticides from their shelves and supply chains – the UK government must act too”.

Chemical companies and pesticide manufacturers have been lobbying just as hard – they argue that the science is inconclusive, and that a ban would harm food production.

The UK government seems to agree with the industry lobby. It objected to the proposed ban in its current form. The chief scientific adviser, Sir Mark Walport, has said restrictions on the use of pesticides should not be introduced lightly, and the idea of a ban should be dropped.

The EU moratorium will not apply to crops non-attractive to bees, or to winter cereals.

It will prohibit the sale and use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides.

And there will be a ban on the sale of neonicotinoids to amateur growers.

There have been a number of studies showing that the chemicals, made by Bayer and Syngenta, do have negative impacts on bees.

One study suggested that neonicotinoids affected the abilities of hives to produce queen bees. More recent research indicated that the pesticides damaged their brains.

But the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) argues that these studies were mainly conducted in the laboratory and do not accurately reflect field conditions

Acid News

Predicted economic benefits of Kai Tak cruise terminal grossly inflated

Submitted by admin on Jan 24th 2013, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Amy Nip and Keith Wallis

Tourists visiting Kai Tak hub will generate just a quarter of official estimate of HK$1b in first year

Government projections of the financial benefits of the Kai Tak terminal appear to be overestimated by as much as 75 per cent, a South China Morning Post investigation has found.

Official estimates reported in 2008 suggested the total value-added contribution to the economy would be HK$860 million to HK$1.09 billion this year alone.

But an analysis of the numbers expected when 37,000 passengers on 16 ships using the terminal between its opening in June and April next year suggest this is hugely optimistic.

An examination of each vessel’s itinerary by the Post shows Hong Kong will be a port of call for seven out of 10 passengers; the rest will be joining or ending their cruise tours in the city.

Based on the 2012 per capita spending of the two types of cruise tourists – HK$4,833 for those starting or ending their tours in Hong Kong and HK$2,141 for those stopping in briefly on their tour – all passengers will spend about HK$100 million in that time. This figure will be boosted by the value-added approach of economic analysis, which takes into consideration a “multiplier effect” of tourist expenditure, meaning the sum could go from one business to another and create bigger benefits.

The multiplier is 2.5 to 3 in Hong Kong, so HK$100 million of tourist spending would add HK$300 million to the city’s gross domestic product, associate professor of economics at Chinese University Terence Chong Tai-leung said. This is just over a quarter of the official estimate.

Hang Seng Management College’s dean of school of business Professor Raymond So Wai-man said the government tended to exaggerate the benefits of projects.

Delays in the terminal’s construction may have dragged on its competitiveness, he said, but its opening would be the starting point for HK to join the cruise race.

Chong agreed: “The building of a terminal can enhance the city’s image and create long-term benefits.”

Work on the long-awaited terminal started in 2009, after the site lay vacant for more than a decade.

The government failed to find a suitable candidate to build the terminal, and eventually decided to build it itself at a cost of HK$7.2 billion.

Competitor Singapore opened its Marina Bay Cruise Centre last October. From this June to April it will handle 89 dockings.

Jeff Bent of Worldwide Flight Services, a partner in the consortium that will run the Kai Tak terminal, said he was disappointed in the number of ship calls.

Cruise companies were not confident the terminal would open on schedule and had not bothered to book ships into it.


Kai Tak Cruise Terminal


More on this:

Kai Tak cruise hub ‘not in best location’ but expansion is timely [1]

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 24th 2013, 5:48am):


Aiming for cleaner public transport

Submitted by admin on Jan 23rd 2013, 12:00am


I refer to the article from Richard R. Vuylsteke, president of the American Chamber of Commerce (“Congestion, roadside pollution are choking development”, January 16).

All along, our strategy is to provide a safe, efficient and reliable transport system.

On roads, car journey speeds and fleet size are regularly monitored. We have implemented fiscal measures to control car growth and Hong Kong is now one of the few cities that has comparatively very low car ownership (about 14 per cent of households own private cars). While there is room for improvement in containing and reducing congestion, our road journey speeds compare favourably with major cities, including London that has a congestion charging scheme.

About 90 per cent of the trips in Hong Kong are made using public transport. This percentage is one of the world’s highest. We are expanding our railway network. Five more railway lines are scheduled for commissioning from 2014 to 2020. Upon completion, more than 70 per cent of our population will be brought into the railway catchment area.

On bus services, the chief executive in his policy address has reaffirmed that we will proceed vigorously with bus service rationalisation complemented by improved interchange service. The objective is threefold – to enable public transport modes to be used efficiently, to reduce road congestion, and to reduce emissions. In 2012, we reduced more than 1,200 bus trips in Central, Causeway Bay and Nathan Road. We have also been increasing the ratio of low-emission franchised buses (Euro IV or above) running in busy corridors. We encourage franchised bus companies to reduce emissions, including by retrofitting an emission reduction device on their buses.

The government will fund the procurement of six hybrid buses and 36 electric buses for trial by franchised bus firms.

Hong Kong has invested considerably in technology to help traffic management. Currently, 95 per cent of the junctions with signals in Hong Kong are operated under area traffic control systems. Traffic control and surveillance facilities such as CCTV cameras, variable message signs and lane control signals have been or are being installed at tunnels and bridges and some strategic routes.

We are installing five speed map panels in the New Territories for launching early this year to inform motorists of prevailing traffic conditions.

It has always been our top priority to build and manage an efficient and green transport system. We always keep an open mind to new and constructive ideas raised by the public.

Anthony Loo Khim-chung, assistant commissioner for transport (planning)



Public Transportation

Air Pollution

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 23rd 2013, 10:08pm):

Chinese leaders ‘have failed to shield environment from economic growth’

Download : whatsdifferent

Taipei investigates HK firm over illegal cash deals for Macau gamblers – The Standard HKG’s World famous laundry

Taipei investigates HK firm over illegal cash deals for Macau gamblers
(01-10 22:38)

Taiwanese prosecutors said they are investigating a locally-based Hong
Kong firm for allegedly carrying out huge money transfers for use in
Macau casinos, circumventing strict forex rules.
The company, which opened in Taiwan in 2009, allegedly accepted deposits
by Taiwanese gamblers allowing them to withdraw the money once they were
in Macau, said the Taipei district prosecutors’ office. Prosecutors, who
declined to identify the firm, said they suspected it was behind a total
of US$179 million in illegal transactions, AFP reports.
The head of the company was questioned yesterday on suspicion of
violating Taiwanese law which stipulates only banks are allowed to
handle domestic and international money transfers, it said in a
Taiwanese media said the services are popular among some gamblers due to
Taiwanese laws restricting the amount of cash travellers can take with
them abroad to US$10,000 per person.
The company reportedly also offered cash advances to entertainers,
elected officials, business tycoons and leading gangsters to help
promote business for the Macau casinos.
As there currently is no legal casino in Taiwan, many of the island’s
gamblers have turned to Macau, which is little more than an hour away by
airplane. The offshore Taiwanese island of Matsu last year passed a
referendum to open the first legal casino in Taiwan, although it is
still pending a separate law by the parliament on regulating gambling

Hong Kong beats UK, US on ‘human freedom’ index Fraser Institute

Submitted by admin on Jan 10th 2013, 12:00am News› Hong Kong


Stuart Lau

Hong Kong ranks third-best globally for “human freedom”, topping such well-established democracies as the United States and United Kingdom, according to the research from the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think tank. The mainland stood at 100th.

The city was the star performer for economic freedom – scoring 9.02 out of 10. But in terms of personal freedom, or civil liberties, it measured 7.8, worse than at least 49 countries.

The Freedom Index [1]

This gave it an overall score on the “human freedom index” of 8.39, below New Zealand and the Netherlands. The US was ranked 7th and the UK 18th.

“No nation that has adopted economic freedom has ever failed to evolve towards civil and political freedoms, with only two possible exceptions: Singapore and Hong Kong,” the report noted. “The great question for the future is whether … market reforms ultimately lead to other freedoms in [mainland] China.”

The mainland was given 5.1 and 6.44 points for personal and economic freedom respectively.

The personal freedom indicator included freedom of speech and religion, legal discrimination against homosexuals and women’s freedom. The economic one focused on property protection and individuals’ engagement in voluntary transactions.

Civic Party lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, an international studies scholar at Baptist University, said the low personal freedom ranking “sounds a timely alarm over signs of compromising civil liberties and an increasingly authoritarian government” in Hong Kong.

Dr Benedict Chan Shing-bun, at the Hang Seng Management College, agreed with the index’s methodology. “I believe [mainland officials] are aware of the importance of keeping Hong Kong’s economic edge.”

The index table, involving 123 countries and regions, was drawn from 2008 and was contained in a new book, Towards a Worldwide Index of Human Freedom, co-researched by Germany’s Liberales Institut. ( …. Follow the money …………….

Harry’s view [2]


Human Rights

human freedom index

Hong Kong

United States

United Kingdom

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 11th 2013, 4:26am):


Hong Kong’s economic freedom score of 89.3 keeps it atop the Index rankings for the 19th consecutive year. Its overall score is 0.6 point lower than last year, mainly due to increased government spending relative to GDP and an increase in inflation. Hong Kong is ranked 1st out of 41 countries in the Asia–Pacific region and 1st in the world.

Hong Kong’s highly competitive regulatory regime, coupled with an efficient and transparent legal framework, sustains vibrant engagement in global trade and investment. The highly motivated and skilled workforce is a cornerstone of strength for the dynamic economy. There is little tolerance for corruption. Economic interactions with China have become more intense and sophisticated, and trade and financial linkages with the mainland have grown significantly.

Hong Kong continues to demonstrate a high degree of economic resilience and remains one of the world’s most competitive financial and business centers. Although Hong Kong remains number one in the Index rankings, the uniqueness of its commitment to economic freedom has eroded in recent years, and any further implementation of populist policies that empower the bureaucracy or undermine the principle of limited government could threaten its standing in the future.

Heritage Foundation | Right Wing Watch

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According to Media Transparency, the Heritage Foundation received $61,944,537 in foundation grants from organizations such as: the Lynde and Harry Bradley

ExxonSecrets Factsheet: Heritage Foundation

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Heritage Foundation has received $730,000 from ExxonMobil since 1998. $50,000 ExxonMobil Corporate Giving Source: ExxonMobil corporate funding 2011, …

Ah yes, now let’s look at similar ‘justify’ organisations ……………………..Follow the money ………… their ‘reports’ and ‘research’

1.    Cato Institute – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In 2008 Cato received 13% of its support from foundations. They reported that Cato received funding from Philip Morris and other tobacco companies in the

2.    The Heartland Institute – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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In the 1990s, the group worked with the tobacco company Philip Morris to question tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange

History and leadership – Positions – Publications – Funding

3.    Heritage Foundation – SourceWatch

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Founded in 1973, The Heritage Foundation is a New Right think tank. …. tobacco company Altria Group (Philip Morris), drug and medical companies Johnson

4.    George Monbiot on climate change and Big Tobacco | Environment…/ethicalliving.g…CachedSimilar

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19 Sep 2006 – lobby groups as TechCentralStation, the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation. It was started by the tobacco company Philip Morris.

5.    Heritage Foundation Invites Tobacco Lobbyist to Expose…/heritagefoundation-invites-tobaccoCached

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16 Apr 2009 – Sarah Karlin, an editorial intern at Campus Progress, attended an event at Heritage Foundation hosting industry lobbyist and

6.    Drug, Medical Device, Biotech and Tobacco – Public Citizen…/articles.cfm?...Cached

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Drug, Medical Device, Biotech and Tobacco Companies Gave at Least $3.5 Million for Heritage Foundation: Now the think tank most frequently cited by major

7.    [PDF]

the cato institute (pdf) – Americans for Nonsmokers

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File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat – Quick View
tobacco products and advertising in the United States since the early 1990s, the Cato Institute continues to work directly and indirectly2,3 with the tobacco

8.    Keep FDA Away from Tobacco | Patrick Basham | Cato Institute…/keep-fda-away-tobaccoCached

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by P Basham
3 Jun 2009 – In the latest issue of Regulation, Thomas A. Lambert explains how the Roberts ruling undermines the new health care law. Also in this issue,

1.    Articles:Listing

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RSS: Choose type: …. They do not fund it or affect its goals. It is a creature of corporations and foundations. The major

2.    Fight Clean Energy Smears

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ATR has received funding from ExxonMobil and the tobacco industry. In 2007 the Cato Foundation gave $120,000 to New Hope Environmental Services,

3.    Koch-Murdoch-Axis: Another half-million bucks from Big Tobacco to…/another-half-million-buc…Cached

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22 Dec 2011 – as contractors to further the tobacco fraud conspiracies, including CATO, Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), Reason Foundation.

4.    Meet The Climate Denial Machine | Blog | Media Matters for America…/191545Cached

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28 Nov 2012 – It previously questioned the science on the health effects of tobacco after The Heritage Foundation, one of the country’s most influential

5.    Cato Institute – SourceWatch

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4 Nov 2012 – 4.1.2 Foundation support. 5 Cato funds 25+ …. Cato and the tobacco industry – on Philip Morris, RJR “friends” lists. The Cato Institute appears

6.    Think Tank Watch: The Cato Institute

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The Cato Institute is a non-profit public policy research foundation (think tank) with The Cato Institute has been a tireless defender of the tobacco industry.

7.    Heritage Foundation | PolluterWatch…/heritagefoundationCached

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12 Dec 2012 – shill for tobacco company Phillip Morris and oil giant Exxon before work for the Heritage Foundation: $2.523 million from fossil fuel interests

1.    Cato Institute – SourceWatch

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4 Nov 2012 – This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 ….. Cato reports that since April 2006 they have paid $242,900 for the ….. and Contrarians”, Society of Environmental Journalists, accessed May 2009.

2.    Steven J. Milloy – SourceWatch

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14 Aug 2012 – Steven J. Milloy is a columnist for Fox News and a paid advocate for Phillip of 2005, he was an adjunct scholar at the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute. Fund, a mutual fund he runs with tobacco executive Thomas J. Borelli, In January 2006, Paul D. Thacker, a journalist who specializes in science

3.    Steven Milloy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Milloy’s close financial and organizational ties to tobacco and oil companies have been The Cato Institute, where he was listed as an adjunct scholar, published his work from Based on this documentation, journalists Paul D. Thacker and George have contended that Milloy is a paid advocate for the tobacco industry

1.    Kevin Grandia | Media Watch: Will Cato Dupe Journalists with…/media-watch-will-cato-dupe-media-…Cached

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23 Oct 2012 – Media Watch: Will Cato Dupe Journalists with Counterfeit Gov’t Copycat? Pat Michaels, the fossil fuel industry’s paid misinformation mouthpiece. 444-445, about the shenanigans of the tobacco industry and such enablers.

2.    Media Moguls on Board

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In recent years, the Cato Institute has neared the top tier of think tanks in the United …. just as accurately been described as an advocacy group paid by the tobacco But mainstream journalists paid scant attention to who was paying the piper.

3.    Media Moguls on Board: Murdoch, Malone and the Cato Institute

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The article identified the Cato Institute only as “a libertarian think tank in the just as accurately been described as an advocacy group paid by the tobacco industry But mainstream journalists paid scant attention to who was paying the piper

1.    Articles:Listing

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RSS: …. journalists that is conveniently free of reference to funders such as tobacco, fossil fuel, investment, …. How many readers noticed the full-page advertisement paid for by the Cato Institute urging

1.    Malcolm Gladwell Unmasked: A Look Into the – S.H.A.M.E. Project…/malcolm-gladwell-unmasked-life-work-…Cached

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31 May 2012 – Gladwell has shilled for Big Tobacco, Pharma and defended Enron-style milking a lucrative career as one of America’s best-paid corporate speakers. To quote Philip Morris, a major supporter of the National Journalism Center, ….. the Wall Street Journal’s Stephan Moore (also on Koch’s pay at the Cato

1.    Malcolm Gladwell Unmasked: A Look Into the – Naked Capitalism…/malcolm-gladwell-…United StatesCached

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6 Jun 2012 – As this article will demonstrate, Gladwell has shilled for Big Tobacco, Pharma To quote Philip Morris, a major supporter of the National Journalism ….. the Wall Street Journal’s Stephan Moore (also on Koch’s pay at the Cato

2.    Brief: Cato Institute’s “Addendum: Global Climate Change Impacts in…/brief-cato-institutes-addendu…Cached

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24 Oct 2012 – Earlier posts: Cato Institute counterfeit U.S. climate change impacts assessment In documents recovered from tobacco giant Phillip Morris, the Cato Institute is included on a list of “allies.” A recent ….. National Journalism Center 27. He’s a paid lobbyist for fossil fuel interests and a professional PR man.

1.    George Monbiot on climate change and Big Tobacco | Environment…/ethicalliving.g…CachedSimilar

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19 Sep 2006 – It was started by the tobacco company Philip Morris. …. TASSC paid him $126,000 in 2004 for 15 hours’ work a week. the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Hudson Institute, the Frontiers of Freedom …. initiative being launched next week by veteran enviro journalists #eg

1.    Koch Brothers’ Attempted Takeover Of Cato Could Be Part Of Bold…/koch-brothers-cato-institute-take…Cached

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22 Mar 2012 – The Cato Institute is a Washington think tank with a long history of rigorous tax deductions (were any of them actually paying taxes at the highest marginal rate). ….. Rare case of accountability journalism by a good reporter:

1.    A Journalist’s First-Hand Report on the Corrupt Secrecy of an…/a-journalists-first-hand-repo…Cached

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24 Nov 2012 – They consume a lot of money, pay themselves extravagant (and tax-free!) to report on a World Health Organization conference on tobacco.

We connected the dots between corporations, politicians, and extreme bills
pouring out of the American Legislative Exchange Council.
Our research helped push 42 major corporations out of ALEC.
Click here, today, to help us continue our work exposing corruption!

Who’s Behind the Smears

Alliance for Energy and Economic Growth (AEEG) was created by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and is led by a VIP list of companies that oppose clean energy and climate legislation. AEEG has organized numerous climate change “dialogues” with state-level Chambers of Commerce, which typically include industry-sponsored economic impact studies which paint doom-and-gloom scenarios of massive job losses and higher energy costs (example here), presentations that raise doubts about the science, and presentations on the difficulty of doing anything about global warming. Even these slanted studies actually show healthy economic growth under federal climate policy, but these results are not presented to the public. For the real story on clean energy jobs check out NRDC economist Laurie Johnson’s blog.

American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) has partnered twice with the National Association of Manufacturers to produce and disseminate distorted economic analyses that overstate the costs of climate legislation and which have been prominently featured at the US Chamber of Commerce-organized “forums” on climate over the past year. The ACCF/NAM studies have been credibly debunked more than once. ACCF has been supported by a number of major corporate interests, including ExxonMobil, Southern Co. and the American Petroleum Institute.

American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) is the number one group representing Big Coal. Created through the renaming and merger of two former front groups, Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) and Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED), ACCCE members and funders include a number of companies directly and indirectly reliant upon coal as a major source of revenue. According to ACCCE’s 2008 tax return, the group brought in $47 million in revenues, nearly 7 times what it reported the previous year. Coal companies and the nation’s biggest railroad association accounted for fifty percent of ACCCE’s budget in 2008.  ACCCE opposed the Waxman-Markey climate bill, and recently Duke Energy left the group because of its entrenched opposition to meaningful climate legislation. The organization’s lobbying expenses in 2009 have been left murky by a revision of their disclosure report which removed more than $10 million from their reported expenditures on federal lobbying (see ACCCE‘s 2nd quarter 2009 reports before and after).

Already infamous for its campaign featuring animated lumps of coal singing Christmas carols revised to tout coal’s virtues, ACCCE‘s most recent embarrassment has blown into a full-fledged scandal: Bonner & Associates, Washington DC’s most famous ‘astroturf’ consulting firms, was forced to admit that it had produced and sent forged letters to members of Congress opposing clean energy and climate legislation, on behalf of ACCCE. The scandal has resulted in Rep. Edward Markey’s House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to investigate ACCCE’s campaign.

American Energy Alliance (AEA) is a 501(c)4 political action group the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute formed to fight the Clinton administration’s BTU tax proposal in 1993, and in recent years funded by ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. Now coupled with the 501(c) (3) Institute for Energy Research and run by Thomas Pyle, (former aide to Republican Tom DeLay and former lobbyist for Koch Industries and the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association) veteran oil lobbyist. AEA has been active in the climate debate, from running ads repeating false claims about the costs of climate legislation to trashing clean energy at town halls around the US – this time using false claims about the dangers of clean energy jobs.

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) has a long track record of distorting the science and solutions of climate change. Its arguments tend to de-emphasize the environmental and economic risks of climate change, exaggerate the costs of addressing the problem and question the value of putting a policy in place at all, as this recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by AEI fellow Steven Hayward. In 2007, the British newspaper The Guardian reported that AEI was offering to pay scientists $10,000 to debunk global warming. AEI has received substantial funding from ExxonMobil and has received tobacco funding from Philip Morris.

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is one-stop shopping for elected officials interested in perusing the wares of an array of Koch-funded opposition organizations including Institute for Energy Research , American Council for Capital Formation, the Mercatus Center and other sources. ALEC publishes its own materials as well, including a “Climate Change Overview for State Legislators” which downplays the science and risks of global warming and exaggerates the costs of addressing it. The Overview was written by Daniel Simmons, who moved from ALEC to become the American Energy Alliance’s Director of State Affairs. ALEC has received funding from ExxonMobil and has been associated with the tobacco industry.

American Solutions for Winning the Future, a 527 political organization chaired by Newt Gingrich, has been fighting clean energy for several years. Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company and one of the groups biggest backers, has contributed $250,000 in the most recent 2010 election cycle to support American Solutions’ activities. The oil and gas company Devon Energy also contributed $250,000, while Arch Coal, the utility American Electric Power and oil services company Plains Exploration and Production gave $100,000 each. Recently, Media Matters reported the group tried to downplay the impact of the Gulf oil disaster oil by claiming natural oil leaks in the Gulf are greater than the blown oil well in the Gulf. But as the oil spews into the ocean at a rate many times higher than first estimated, no oil-whether man made or natural-is good for the ocean environment. The Gingrich group also has been attacking the American Power Act as a gas tax that would hurt the economy, a specious claim debunked by the recent economic report by the Peterson Institute. In 2009, American Solutions ran a misleading TV advertisement against the American Clean Energy and Security Act shortly before it was passed by the US House in June, organized an email-drive targeting members of Congress and continues to collect signatures and mobilize its followers to oppose clean energy and climate legislation.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a front-group founded and funded by members of the family that owns Koch Industries, one of the largest privately-held companies in the world, with $100 billion in sales and 70,000 employees. According to an extensive investigative report by Greenpeace, AFP received more than $5 million from Koch family foundations from 2005-2008. In 2008, Koch Industries executive vp and board member the David H. Koch was listed as chairman of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. Various members of the Koch family make up of the most consistent sources of funding of opposition to clean energy, including $1,000,000 to AFP in recent years. Beginning in 2008, AFP organized Astroturf “hot air balloon” events to highlight their opposition to clean energy and climate legislation, a tactic they resumed in the summer of 2009. They are continuing to fund anti-climate change events in 2010. This Astroturf campaign has been repeatedly exposed, including this item in the Wall Street Journal’s blog Environmental Capital.

Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) denies the science of global warming and opposes federal policies to address it. ATR focused on costs and denial in their 2008 “Cost of Government” report. ATR is run by conservative Washington insider Grover Norquist, who once wrote a letter along with the Competitive Enterprise Institute demanding that the Bush Administration withdraw its Climate Action Report 2002 posted on the EPA website because it was based on “junk science.” ATR has received funding from ExxonMobil and the tobacco industry.

APCO Asssociates, now APCO Worldwide, was a PR agency that partnered with Philip Morris to develop grassroots and science front groups such as The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC). It supported tobacco industry views on regulation and other anti-regulatory efforts on topics such as global warming. TASSC was headed by junk science king and climate science denier Steve Milloy, who still is hosted on Fox News shows as a science expert on global warming.

Atlas Economic Research Foundation has cosponsored Heartland  Institute events dedicated to the proposition that climate change is not a crisis and has supported organizations such as the John Locke Foundation,  a group that has attacked efforts by state elected officials working on climate solutions with the Alliance  for Climate Strategies. Atlas has helped spawn dozens of conservative libertarian think tanks such as the Manhattan Institute. Atlas has received money from Philip Morris and Exxon.

The Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change is run by Sherwood Idso and his sons Craig and Keith, long-time climate science deniers. The Center runs the science denial site CO2 Science. The group has worked with the Greening Earth Society, founded by the Western Fuels Association. It also has received funding from ExxonMobil.

Per its unapologetically Orwellian name, CO2isGreen runs anti-climate/clean energy advertisements reflecting the strident climate science denial sentiments of the oil and coal executives who run it. H. Leighton Steward is chairman of and the related front group Steward has worked at Shell and Burlington Resources. He has chaired the U.S. Oil and Gas Association, the Natural Gas Supply Association, and the Louisiana Mid Continent Oil and Gas Association. Steward currently serves on the board of the oil and gas company EOG Resources. In 2001, Steward was awarded the American Petroleum Institute’s Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. The Washington Post reports: “Steward has joined forces with Corbin J. Robertson Jr., chief executive of and leading shareholder in Natural Resource Partners, a Houston-based owner of coal resources that lets other companies mine in return for royalties.” According to “[Robertson] is the CEO of Natural Resources Partners L.P., which belongs to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. ACCCE is a ‘pro coal group’ that is linked to at least thirteen fraudulent letters mailed to members of Congress purporting to be from seniors, veterans, African American, Latino and Women’s organizations expressing opposition to ACES. In 2008, ACCCE spent at least $45 million on a clean coal advertising campaign, and during the first two quarters of 2009, ACCCE has spent over a million dollars in direct federal lobbying.”

Coalition for Affordable American Energy (CAAE) is a coalition of more than 180 trade associations sponsored by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. CAAE is chiefly responsible for a misleading study projecting job losses and increased energy costs, under an Obama energy plan, and they won praise from President George W. Bush for their support of offshore domestic oil drilling. CAAE was formed in 2008 to push for a pro-oil drilling agenda with industry heavyweights.

Capital Research Center (CRC) runs the website collects information on non-profit environmental advocates, and is heavily biased against climate science. CRC has taken funding from Exxon and Philip Morris.

The Cato Institute tends to focus on disputing the science behind global warming and questioning the rationale for taking action. The organization’s 2009 “Handbook for Policymakers” on global warming begins with the suggestions that Congress should “pass no legislation restricting emissions of carbon dioxide” and “inform the public about how little climate change would be prevented by proposed legislation.” Robert Bradley, an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, is also a founder and the CEO of the Institute for Energy Research. In 2007 the Cato Foundation gave $120,000 to New Hope Environmental Services, a “an advocacy science consulting firm” founded and run by long-time climate science denier Patrick J. Michaels, who uses New Hope to public his World Climate Report, a sort of ongoing journal of denial of climate science. Michaels is also a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, which paid him $98,000 to write a book “The Satanic Gases” with fellow skeptic Robert Balling. Over the years, Michaels’ work has been financed by a number of coal and polluter interests, including the Western Fuels Association and the Intermountain Rural Electric Association. According to an investigative report by Greenpeace, Cato received family foundation grants from oil services giant Koch Industries worth $3,358,000 between 1997 and 2008.

The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) is a major critic of climate science and helped organize a conference during the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen to dispute ongoing efforts to combat global warming. CFACT advisors include Patrick Michaels, Michael Fumento and Dennis Avery, major critical voices of climate change science. CFACT has been funded by conservative foundations and Exxon, among others.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is one of the oldest conservative think tanks dating back to the Reagan years of the 1980s. It has also been closely involved in putting out misinformation about global warming, and stated a front group called the Cooler Heads Coalition in 1997, a group of conservative and fossil fuel funded organizations opposed to efforts to implement clean energy regulations and cut global CO2 emissions. CEI has been a major recipient of funding from Exxon and other oil companies. Last year, CEI was behind the specious claim that the government was hiding evidence that fighting global warming would cost more than it was saying publicly. CEI has also jumped on the hackergate bandwagon making outrageous claims that the stolen emails were proof that global warming was a fraud. CEI was also a close ally of Philip Morris and has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from Big Tobacco. Read more.

Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded in 1942 to champion civil rights. Its chairman and CEO is Roy Innis, also on the board of the conservative Hudson Institute which receives funding from Koch Industries. Between 2003 and 2006, ExxonMobil donated more than $275,000 to CORE, including for projects described as “Global Climate Change Environmental Outreach.” CORE has focused on opposing clean energy and climate legislation by claiming it would raise energy prices disproportionately for minorities. CORE’s original founders have criticized the organization for “renting out” its reputation to companies like ExxonMobil.

The Cooler Heads Coalition is a loose association of more than a dozen conservative climate skeptic groups and publishes the website It was hosted and financed by the anti-regulatory group Consumer Alert and is chaired by Myron Ebell, who directs the global warming and energy policy program at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Energy Citizens is a “grass roots” campaign against climate and energy legislation which has organized rallies in the Midwest and South during the August Congressional recess. The Energy Citizens coalition includes business and industry groups and conservative advocacy organizations like Freedomworks. Greenpeace USA recently exposed Energy Citizens’ funding ties to the oil industry, including the American Petroleum Institute.

Fraser Institute, a Canadian based anti-regulatory think tank, publishes in-depth critiques of climate science, including a 110-page report attacking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment report. The Institute also offers lesson plans and educational materials designed to encourage children to be skeptical of mainstream climate science. The Fraser Institute has sought funding from the tobacco industry and has received funding from ExxonMobil.

FreedomWorks is an Astroturf campaign organization run by Dick Armey, former Republican House Majority Leader and noted corporate lobbyist. In 2004 FreedomWorks merged with Citizens for a Sound Economy, a major advocacy group founded by oil services giant Koch Industries executive David Koch. Freedomworks has been a driving force behind the anti-healthcare, anti-tax, anti-clean energy opposition groups showing up at town halls and rallies across the states, and it has asked its “grass roots activists” to send a letter to members of Congress. In 2009 Freedomworks joined the Energy Citizens coalition, which is funded in part by the American Petroleum Institute and other organizations. Read More.

Frontiers of Freedom Foundation (FF) was formed in 1996 by former Wyoming Senator Malcolm Wallop as an anti-regulatory think tank. It has hosted some 55 articles on its website focusing on climate science denial and high estimates of the cost of climate policy. Frontiers of Freedom reinforced the Tax Foundation’s characterization of cap-and-trade as a tax on the poor and middle class. FF also smears climate science and spreads climate disinformation. FF has worked closely with and has been funded by the tobacco industry and ExxonMobil.

Foundation for Research on Energy and the Environment (FREE) sponsors controversial seminars for federal judges that promote “free market environmentalism,” events that have been criticized for creating judicial conflicts of interest. FREE states it does not accept direct corporate support for its judicial seminars and only takes money from foundations whose founder is deceased (called dead-men foundations). A Koch report on its FREE funding raised questions about the accuracy of the disclosure.

George C. Marshall Institute produced a “Cocktail Conversation Guide” on with suggestions for denying the dangers of global warming in any “social setting.” The Marshall Institute was originally established in the 1980s to promote President Reagan’s Star wars program but in recent years it has increasingly turned its attention to climate change. It has promoted climate skeptic Patrick Michaels books on its website and has received substantial funding from ExxonMobil. Its former chairman was Frederick Seitz, a climate skeptic and former tobacco consultant.

The Heartland Institute is a conservative think tank that strongly criticizes climate science and runs a web site that includes misleading information about the science behind climate change. Heartland has hosted annual conferences to dispute consensus agreements around climate change. It also promoted the faulty Spanish green jobs study that was debunked by experts. Heartland is funded by conservative foundations and fossil fuel companies such as Exxon. It has received funding from and been a frequent ally of the tobacco industry.

The Heritage Foundation is a mainstay of misinformation and exaggeration when it comes to climate and policy issues. In the last couple of years, Heritage has misinterpreted of the impacts of global warming on the US economy, twisted news reports to justify scary claims about ‘climate taxes’, issued bad economic analyses and deceptive presentations, and released exaggerated claims about economic ruin and impacts in the agricultural sector should Congress pass climate legislation. This is only a representative sample. The Heritage Foundation also teamed up with the Institute for Energy Research to promote the widely debunked “Spanish” study. Heritage has been funded by ExxonMobil and tobacco companies. According to an investigative report by Greenpeace, oil services giant Koch Industries and its family foundations gave the Heritage Foundation grants worth $3,358,000 between 1997 and 2008

Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) spread misinformation on climate science and touts the work of climate deniers. IWF is run by Nancy Pfotenhauer (formerly Nancy Mitchell), Koch Industries’ chief in-house lobbyist from 1996 to 2001 when she left Koch to become the director of the IWF. In 2003, IWF affiliated itself with Americans for Prosperity, which replaced Citizens for a Sound Economy. IWF is funded primarily by conservative foundations.

Institute for Energy Research is a partner organization to American Energy Alliance that employs the same staff and supports misinformation trashing clean energy. It supported and promoted the “Spanish” and “Danish” studies critical of clean energy jobs, both of which have been debunked by credible sources. IER also argues that efforts to curb global warming would accomplish little at too great a cost, promotes ACCF/NAM and Heritage Foundation studies that exaggerate the costs of climate policy, and discourages U.S. leadership on the international stage.  Robert Bradley, a former Enron executive, is the CEO of IER and one of its founders. Thomas Pyle, a former Koch and oil-industry lobbyist, is the President of IER and the American Energy Alliance, the 501c4 counterpart to IER. One of IER’s directors, Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute, was exposed in 2007 for attempting to pay IPCC scientists to criticize the IPCC’s findings on climate science.IER has received funding from ExxonMobil.

Koch Industries the giant privately owned oil services company, is a major funder of climate change denial groups, funneling money to organizations opposed to climate change legislation through its foundations, the Claude R. Lambe Foundation; the Charles G. Koch Foundation; and the David H. Koch Foundation. According to a thorough investigative report released by Greenpeace, Koch foundations have doled out more than $48 million to group to promote its pro-oil agenda. These include the Mercatus Center (1997-2008: $9,874,500), Americans for Prosperity Foundation (AFP) ($5,176,500 from 2005-2008), The Heritage Foundation (grants worth $3,358,000 between 1997 and 2008), and the Cato Institute (foundation grants of $5,278,400 between 1997 and 2008).

Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a large conservative think tank in Michigan that spreads climate change denials and smears prominent climate policy consultants. It has received funding from ExxonMobil. (JM and Atlas Economic Research Foundation hence Big Tobacco)

The Manhattan Institute, founded by former CIA Chief William Casey, publishes climate science denials and has hosted Bjorn Lomborg, a favorite of climate deniers, in the last several years. The Manhattan Institute has received funding from ExxonMobil and from tobacco companies.

National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) disseminates climate science denials and exaggerates the economic costs of mitigation. NCPA is an anti-regulatory think tank that has attacked efforts to combat global warming. It was caught up in the web around convicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who used the organization as part of a scheme to defraud Indian tribes. The Center also has received tobacco funding from Philip Morris, as well oil companies such as ExxonMobil.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is an anti-regulatory think tank that has attacked efforts to combat global warming. It was caught up in the web around convicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who used the organization as part of a scheme to defraud Indian tribes. The Center also has received tobacco funding from Philip Morris, as well oil companies such as Exxon.

Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy (PRIPP), based in San Francisco, supported and funded An Inconvenient Truth…or Convenient Fiction, a film attacking the science of global warming and intended as a rebuttal to former Vice-President Al Gore’s documentary. The film was produced by PRIPP Senior Fellow Steven Hayward and promoted by the Heritage Foundation. PRIPP has received funding from ExxonMobil and from the tobacco industry.

Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) is a private property rights think tank based in Bozeman, MT. It touts the economic benefits to American farmers as a reason not to act against climate change. PERC has been a part of the Cooler Heads Coalition and has taken funding from ExxonMobil.

National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) and its president Harry C. Alford have vigorously opposed  H.R. 2454, participating in rallies and testifying before Congress. In a recent Senate hearing, Alford recently called Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer a racist for her comments about NAACP’s support of the climate change legislation. NBCC has received funding from ExxonMobil and the tobacco industry.

Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) was founded by Fred Singer, a leading climate science skeptic, and was originally associated with the Unification Church. Singer, who also worked with the tobacco industry, worked closely with a variety of climate skeptic groups, including the Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. SEPP received funding from ExxonMobil.

The Reason Foundation, publisher of Reason Magazine, promotes the tenets of “Free Market Environmentalism (FME)” to argue that those who suffer from the effects of global warming have little legal or moral claim for compensation from GHG emitters. The Reason Foundation received funding from ExxonMobil and the tobacco industry.

The Tax Foundation opposed ACESA and issued a study on the costs of cap and trade legislation. Wayne Gable, a former Managing Director of Federal Affairs at Koch Industries, served as president of the Tax Foundation from 1989-1991.  He is now on the board of the Institute for Energy Research. The Tax Foundation has received funding from ExxonMobil.

Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) fellows recently wrote on why reducing global warming pollution won’t work and the devastating impact the American Clean Energy and Security Act would have on all aspects of American life. It has received funding from conservative foundations and Exxon.

The US Chamber of Commerce (The Chamber) wouldn’t ordinarily make a list of front groups since in general it is what it claims: a representative of business interests. However, in the case of the climate debate, The Chamber presents the positions of three of America’s biggest coal producers as representative of the entire body, a misrepresentation that some members have complained about. In fact, nineteen of The Chamber’s board members support federal policy on climate, while only four—including those three coal companies—oppose it. The Chamber’s calls to hold a “Scopes Monkey” trial on global warming science evidence that the body has chosen to present the views of a few coal companies as representing US business in general. This analysis connects the dots between Union Pacific Railroad and its support for UP Director and Chamber President Tom Donohue, dirty coal and The Chamber’s anti-climate legislation stance. The Chamber spent $144 million on lobbying in 2009, a 60% increase from 2008.

The Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) publishes articles on the business threats posed by regulation of global warming pollution, such as vulnerability to tort claims. WLF is funded by conservative foundations and has received funding from the tobacco industry and has received money from Exxon.

Young America’s Foundation (YAF) publishes climate-denial creeds and promotes prominent climate-denier Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute which has received funding from ExxonMobil. Horner is author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism,” and “A Field Guide to Climate Criminals.” YAF President Ron Robinson is a director of Citizens United and of the American Conservative Union, which have been skeptical of climate change.

In some cases, think tanks are little more than public relations fronts, usually headquartered in state or national seats of government and generating self-serving scholarship that serves the advocacy goals of their industry sponsors. A think tank’s resident experts carry titles such as “senior fellow” or “adjunct scholar,” but this does not necessarily mean that they possess an academic degree in their area of claimed expertise. Outside funding can corrupt the integrity of academic institutions. The same corrupting influences affect think tanks, only more so.

Think tanks are like universities minus the students and minus the systems of peer review and other mechanisms that academia uses to promote diversity of thought. Real academics are expected to conduct their research first and draw their conclusions second, but this process is often reversed at most policy-driven think tanks. As writer Jonathan Rowe has observed, the term “think” tanks is a misnomer. His comment was directed at the conservative Heritage Foundation, but it applies equally well to many other think tanks, regardless of ideology: “They don’t think; they justify.”

“In 1970, Supreme Court Justice Lewis Powell wrote a fateful memo to the National Chamber of Commerce saying that all of our best students are becoming anti-business because of the Vietnam War, and that we needed to do something about it. Powell’s agenda included getting wealthy conservatives to set up professorships, setting up institutes on and off campus where intellectuals would write books from a conservative business perspective, and setting up think tanks. He outlined the whole thing in 1970. They set up the Heritage Foundation in 1973, and the Manhattan Institute after that. There are many others, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institute at Stanford, which date from the 1940s.” —George Lakoff [1]

Think tanks are funded primarily by large businesses and major foundations. They devise and promote policies that shape the lives of everyday Americans: Social Security privatization, tax and investment laws, regulation of everything from oil to the Internet. They supply experts to testify on Capitol Hill, write articles for the op-ed pages of newspapers, and appear as TV commentators. They advise presidential aspirants and lead orientation seminars to train incoming members of Congress.

Think tanks may have a decided political leaning. There are twice as many conservative think tanks as liberal ones, and the conservative ones generally have more money. One of the important functions of think tanks is to provide a way for business interests to promote their ideas or to support economic and sociological research not taking place elsewhere that they feel may turn out in their favor. Conservative think tanks also offer donors an opportunity to support conservative policies outside academia, which during the 1960s and 1970s was accused of having a strong “collectivist” bias.

“Modern think tanks are nonprofit, tax-exempt, political idea factories where donations can be as big as the donor’s checkbook and are seldom publicized,” notes Tom Brazaitis, writing for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Technology companies give to think tanks that promote open access to the internet. Wall Street firms donate to think tanks that espouse private investment of retirement funds.” So much money now flows in, that the top 20 conservative think tanks now spend more money than all of the “soft money” contributions to the Republican party.

Hong Kong’s public consultations are ineffective

Submitted by admin on Jan 4th 2013, 12:00am


I refer to the letter from Garmen Chan Ka-yiu of the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (“West Kowloon hotel was clear about its plans”, December 28).

Whether the authority was clear about such plans is debatable. I must take issue, however, with Mr Chan’s statement that the “proposed development plan underwent extensive public consultation”.

Having managed consultation and community engagement for dam and infrastructure projects in many countries across the globe, I would like to point out that the extent and quality of such “consultation” exercises in Hong Kong over the last 15 years has been risible.

None of the consultations conducted by Hong Kong’s public bodies or the civil contractors whom they employ would be acceptable in Namibia or Malawi, let alone advanced economies like Australia or Canada.

For a consultation to be effective, a number of factors must be satisfied. First, engagement must be early, that is, at the inception stage. Input must be obtained on the nature of the problem. Approaching the public for the first time with proposals that have already been put forward, as the arts hub authority has done, is too late.

Second, there should be a range of activities where individuals are able to define the content of the consultation, clarify issues, input hard data and build consensus. Much of the consultation conducted in Hong Kong – such as the single public meeting and phone-in line for the 75,000 Tung Chung residents to give feedback on the development of their town – fail totally, being limited, restrictive and unimaginative.

Third, there needs to be a demonstration that consultation was incorporated into the proponent’s decisions and that agreement was reached by consensus. Based on the political backlash against the current Hong Kong government, this has evidently not been done.

The consequence of a consultation that is both ineffective and insincere is development that fails to serve the needs of the majority. Whether the wholly inadequate exercises conducted in Hong Kong to date are due to incompetence, a paucity of skills and knowledge within the government, or, as the Hong Kong public suspects, collusion with big business, is a matter requiring further investigation.

What cannot be denied is that the development of this city has proceeded to serve the interests of the conglomerates, while the rest of society has become increasingly marginalised and disconnected. Is it any wonder there is a social and political crisis?

Alex Morgan, Tung Chung


Public Consultation

West Kowloon hotel


West Kowloon Cultural District Authority

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 4th 2013, 8:47am):

Outrage over ‘shark fin rooftop’

Submitted by kerry.nelson on Jan 3rd 2013, 4:28pm

  • News›Hong Kong

Shark fins drying in the sun cover the roof of a factory building in Hong Kong on Wednesday. Photo: AFP


Agence France-Presse in Hong Kong

Hong Kong conservationists expressed outrage on Thursday after images of a factory rooftop covered in thousands of freshly sliced shark fins emerged, as they called for curbs on the “barbaric” trade.

The city is one of the world’s biggest markets for shark fins, which are used to make soup that is an expensive staple at Chinese banquets and viewed by many Asians as a rare delicacy.

Activist Gary Stokes who has visited the site estimated there are 15,000 to 20,000 fins being laid to dry on the rooftop on Hong Kong island ahead of an anticipated surge in demand over Lunar New Year in February this year.

“This is shocking,” the Hong Kong coordinator for conservation group Sea Shepherd told reporters, saying it was the first time that he has spotted such a massive hoarding of shark fins in one place in the city.

“This is the most graphic, brutal and barbaric part of the industry – the element of chopping a shark’s fin off and throwing it back into the water is horrific and inhumane,” he added.

Stokes believed the large amount of shark fins were destined for China, and that traders moved to dry the shark fins on secluded rooftops instead of sidewalks – as they have done in the past – to avoid public anger.

Campaigns against consuming shark fins have gained ground in Hong Kong in recent years, after major hotel chains decided to drop the soup from the menus, and Cathay Pacific said in September it would stop carrying unsustainable sourced shark products on its cargo flights.

“The demand in Hong Kong is definitely decreasing but unfortunately, the demand in China is growing,” Stokes said.

“As long as there is no protection for the sharks, the (demand) will just keep going on and on,” he added, urging Hong Kong authorities to ban the trade.

Environmentalists say the sustainable shark fin industry is tiny and most of the products are harvested in a way that threatens scores of shark species deemed vital for healthy oceans.

About 73 million sharks are killed every year, with Hong Kong importing about 10,000 tonnes annually for the past decade, according to environmental group WWF. Most of those fins are then exported to mainland China.

The number of threatened shark species has soared from 15 in 1996 to more than 180 in 2010, mainly due to the growing Chinese demand for fins.


Shark fins

Sea Shepherd

Gary Stokes

Lunar New Year

More on this:

Hong Kong police bust loan-shark syndicate; 17 arrested [1]

Cathay Pacific bans shark fin from its cargo flights [2]

Angry merchants protest against Cathay Pacific’s shark fin ban [3]

Source URL (retrieved on Jan 3rd 2013, 5:12pm):


irish environmental taxes

“when the Irish were faced with new environmental taxes, they quickly shifted to greener fuels and cars and began recycling with fervor. Automakers like Mercedes found ways to make powerful cars with an emissions rating as low as tinier Nissans. With less trash, landfills closed. And as fossil fuels became more costly, renewable energy sources became more competitive, allowing Ireland’s wind power industry to thrive. ”

Carbon Taxes Make Ireland Even Greener

Derek Speirs for The New York Times

Environmental Taxes in Ireland: Taxes on garbage and fossil fuels are part of Ireland’s novel strategy to shrink its debt.

DUBLIN — Over the last three years, with its economy in tatters, Ireland embraced a novel strategy to help reduce its staggering deficit: charging households and businesses for the environmental damage they cause.

The government imposed taxes on most of the fossil fuels used by homes, offices, vehicles and farms, based on each fuel’s carbon dioxide emissions, a move that immediately drove up prices for oil, natural gas and kerosene. Household trash is weighed at the curb, and residents are billed for anything that is not being recycled.

The Irish now pay purchase taxes on new cars and yearly registration fees that rise steeply in proportion to the vehicle’s emissions.

Environmentally and economically, the new taxes have delivered results. Long one of Europe’s highest per-capita producers of greenhouse gases, with levels nearing those of the United States, Ireland has seen its emissions drop more than 15 percent since 2008.

Although much of that decline can be attributed to a recession, changes in behavior also played a major role, experts say, noting that the country’s emissions dropped 6.7 percent in 2011 even as the economy grew slightly.

“We are not saints like those Scandinavians — we were lapping up fossil fuels, buying bigger cars and homes, very American,” said Eamon Ryan, who was Ireland’s energy minister from 2007 to 2011. “We just set up a price signal that raised significant revenue and changed behavior. Now, we’re smashing through the environmental targets we set for ourselves.”

By contrast, carbon taxes are viewed as politically toxic in the United States. Republican leaders in Congress have pledged to block any proposal for such a tax, and President Obama has not advocated one, although the idea has drawn support from economists of varying ideologies.

Yet when the Irish were faced with new environmental taxes, they quickly shifted to greener fuels and cars and began recycling with fervor. Automakers like Mercedes found ways to make powerful cars with an emissions rating as low as tinier Nissans. With less trash, landfills closed. And as fossil fuels became more costly, renewable energy sources became more competitive, allowing Ireland’s wind power industry to thrive.

Even more significantly, revenue from environmental taxes has played a crucial role in helping Ireland reduce a daunting deficit by several billion euros each year.

The three-year-old carbon tax has raised nearly one billion euros ($1.3 billion) over all, including 400 million euros in 2012. That provided the Irish government with 25 percent of the 1.6 billion euros in new tax revenue it needed to narrow its budget gap this year and avert a rise in income tax rates.

The International Monetary Fund, which oversees the rescue plan, recently suggested that Ireland should “expand the well-designed carbon tax” and its automobile taxes to generate even more money.

Although first proposed by the Green Party, the environmental taxes enjoy the support of all major political parties “because it puts a lot of money on the table,” said Frank Convery, an economist at University College Dublin. The bailout plan for 2013 requires Ireland to embrace a mix of new tax revenues and spending cuts.

Not everyone is happy. The prices of basic commodities like gasoline and heating oil have risen 5 to 10 percent. This is particularly hard on the poor, although the government has provided subsidies for low-income families to better insulate homes, for example. And industries complain that the higher prices have made it harder for them to compete outside Ireland.

“Prices just keep going up, and a lot of people think it’s a scam,” said Imelda Lyons, 45, as she filled her car at a gas station here. “You call it a carbon tax, but what good is being done with it to help the environment?”

The coalition government that enacted the taxes was voted out of office last year. “Just imagine President Obama saying in the debate, ‘I’ve got this great idea, but it’s going to increase your gasoline price,’ ” said Mr. Ryan, who lost his seat in the last election and now leads the Green Party. “People didn’t exactly cheer us on.”

A recent report estimated that a modest carbon tax in the United States that increased incrementally over time could generate about $1.25 trillion in revenue from 2012 to 2022, reducing the 10-year deficit by 50 percent, based on projections from the Congressional Budget Office.

“I think most economists — on the right and the left — think a carbon tax is a good idea,” said Aparna Mathur, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research group that held a daylong seminar on carbon taxes in November. Some economists estimate that a carbon tax could raise $400 billion annually in the United States, she said. But the issue remains a nonstarter in the American political arena. even though Gilbert Metcalf, the Obama administration’s deputy assistant Treasury secretary for environment and energy, long promoted carbon taxes as a Tufts University economist.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative advocacy group, has even filed a Freedom of Information suit seeking the release of Treasury Department e-mails containing the word “carbon” to make sure that nothing is in the works. Like many other economists, Dr. Metcalf has argued that carbon taxation is preferable to government regulation or cap-and-trade systems because it sets a straightforward price on greenhouse gas emissions and is relatively hard to evade.

Although carbon taxes in some ways disproportionately affect the poor — who are less able to buy new, more efficient cars, for example — such taxes do heavily penalize the wealthy, who consume far more. As with “sin taxes” on cigarettes, the taxes also alleviate some of the societal costs of pollution.

For several years, the European Commission has encouraged debt-ridden members of the European Union to embrace environmental taxes, saying that its economists have concluded they have “a less detrimental macroeconomic impact” than new income taxes or corporate taxes.

“Europeans don’t like taxes either,” said Connie Hedegaard, the European commissioner for climate action. “But this is good for the environment, and also good for our competitiveness.”

Some of Europe’s strongest economies, like Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands, have taxed carbon dioxide emissions since the early 1990s, and Japan and Australia have introduced them more recently.

Ireland took the plunge after its economy collapsed in 2008 as a result of loose credit policies that created a real estate bubble; in one year, tax revenues fell 25 percent. With a huge bailout in 2010 by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, Ireland’s deficit soared to 11.9 percent of its gross domestic product, or over 30 percent with all loans factored in.

The environmental taxes work in concert with austerity measures like reduced welfare payments and higher fees for health care that are expected to save 2.2 billion euros this year. The carbon tax is levied on fossil fuels when they enter the country and is then passed on to consumers at the point of purchase. The automobile sales tax, which ranges from 14 to 36 percent of a car’s market price depending on its emissions, is simply folded into the sticker price.

That sent manufacturers racing to reduce emissions. Automakers like Mercedes and Volvo began making cars with high-efficiency diesel engines that shut off rather than idle when they stop, for example. “For manufacturers it’s all, ‘How low you can get?’ ” said Donal Duggan, a brand manager at an MSL showroom near central Dublin.

Other emissions taxes on cars, including the annual car registration fee, or road tax, are billed directly to customers, potentially adding thousands to annual operating costs. Ninety percent of new car sales last year were in the two lowest-emission tiers.

The taxes on garbage had an immediate impact. In Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County in southeastern Dublin, each home’s “black bin” for garbage headed to the landfill is weighed at pickup to calculate quarterly charges. Green bins for recyclables are emptied free of charge.

“There was a big furor initially, but now everything I throw out, I think, ‘How could I recycle this?’ ” said Tara Brown, a mother of three.

Of course, new environmental taxes bring new pain. Gas, always expensive in Europe, sells here for about $8 a gallon, around 20 percent more than in 2009 because of tightening market supplies and the new tax.

Still, Dr. Convery, the economist, is encouraging the government to raise carbon tax rates for 2013, declaring, “You don’t want to waste a good crisis to do what we should be doing anyway.”