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The Trump Administration is Filling Up With Koch Allies

On the campaign trail, President-elect Donald Trump boasted that he had no need for the Koch brothers, claiming to have rejected meetings with them and calling his Republican primary opponents “puppets” for meeting with the Kochs.

Yet, today, Trump’s transition team and Cabinet are quickly filling with a number of Koch affiliates, confidantes, and business associates. Continue reading “The Trump Administration is Filling Up With Koch Allies”

TV Show ‘Years of Living Dangerously’ to Ask, “Who Killed Electric Car Sales in Georgia?”

Just two years ago, Georgia was an unlikely national leader in electric vehicle sales. Boosted by one of the nation’s most generous state-level EV tax incentives, by early 2014, Georgia trailed only California in EV registrations. Then, in January 2015, a new measure slipped into the state’s $1 billion transportation bill killed the credit, and added another $200 annual fee for EV drivers. Electric car sales immediately fell off a cliff.

According to Don Francis, the coordinator of Clean Cities-Georgia and Executive Director of the Partnership for Clean Transportation, overall EV sales fell by 90 percent, and sales of the Nissan LEAF are off nearly 95 percent.

On Wednesday night, Years of Living Dangerously will cover the brief, volatile history of electric cars in Georgia, with actor Ty Burrell traveling to Atlanta to see the effects of the slashed EV incentives on the transportation system and talk with local drivers.

Here’s how Atlanta Magazine described the history of the legislation:

In January 2015, state Representative Chuck Martin, an Alpharetta Republican, introduced a bill to kill the state credit partly on the argument that it gave electric vehicles an unfair advantage over other low-emission cars such as the Chevrolet Volt. Martin’s measure got lumped into the $1 billion transportation bill, which raised the state’s gas tax to pay for road improvements. As if that weren’t enough, lawmakers slapped electric vehicle owners with an additional $200 annual fee on the logic that it wasn’t fair to make drivers of gas-powered vehicles bear the entire cost of road maintenance. When the new laws went into effect on July 1, the emerging electric vehicle market was immediately eviscerated. Statewide registrations plummeted from 1,338 in June to 115 in October.

But there’s more to the story. Martin’s bill looks similar to model bills that have been pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Koch-funded entity that pushes fossil fuel-friendly agendas through state legislatures.

As the Center for Media and Democracy has noted, ALEC recently began pushing the Koch’s anti-EV agenda:

At the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona in December 2015, the Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force heard a presentation on “State and Federal Subsidies for Electric Vehicles,” then voted on a resolution to discourage states from providing subsidies, the “Resolution Regarding Subsidies for Electric Vehicles.” The Kochs have long funded ALEC. Koch Industries has had a seat on ALEC’s “Private Enterprise” board for years, while Koch network entities like Freedom Partners, Americans for Prosperity, and Koch-funded “think tanks” have seats on a number of task forces where they get a vote on bills.

We’ll have to tune in Wednesday night to see if Burrell learns anything of ALEC’s involvement in the killing of Georgia’s EV incentive and the new annual fees.

With the incoming Trump administration unlikely to push any EV-friendly policies on the federal level — and the prospects for actively killing federal EV tax credits — these state level incentives will be increasingly important in getting more drivers behind the wheels of electric cars.

Earlier this year, investigative reporter Peter Stone revealed the Koch brothers’ plans “to spend about $10 million dollars per year to boost petroleum-based transportation fuels and attack government subsidies for electric vehicles.

On Koch vs Clean, a DeSmog project, we are tracking the Koch-funded attacks on clean energy and electric vehicles at the state and federal levels. The history of the EV incentive in Georgia should be both instructive and a stark warning for how influential the Koch network can be in state policy.

Here’s the full description of Wednesday night’s episode, which airs on the National Geographic Channel:

Almost one-fifth of all carbon emissions in the world come from the transportation sector. Actor Ty Burrell takes to the road to see the environmental revolutions being made in electric vehicles (EVs) and automated vehicles (AVs). Burrell visits Silicon Valley to learn about AV advancements and hear how big automakers are pouring major capital into AV technology. In Atlanta, where some of the country’s most generous EV incentives were recently killed, Burrell makes a visit to see the effects and hear firsthand from EV advocates. Action hero, politician, climate crusader and Years of Living Dangerously executive producer Arnold Schwarzenegger sets out to explore the military’s relationship with a changing climate, including how our armed forces are dealing with an increasing number of climate-related disasters and how the military is working to reduce its own carbon footprint. Schwarzenegger travels to Kuwait to visit soldiers and travel in a fuel convoy (where more than 3,000 soldiers have been killed or injured since 9/11). He learns how serious a threat the military perceives climate change to be, talks to top-level military leaders and meets the brave men and women who are dealing with climate change threats and disasters on the front lines.

This was originally published on DeSmog.

Main image: Years of Living Dangerously

Here’s the Energy Agenda from the Koch Brothers’ Guy on the Trump Transition Team

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The energy agenda of the incoming Trump administration just got a lot clearer. A memo sent by Thomas Pyle, President of the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research (IER) and head of the Trump transition’s energy team, laid out “The Trump Administration’s Energy Plan.”

The memo, which was received and published by the Center for Media and Democracy, was sent by Pyle to a private email list just days before the Trump team announced that it would replace a Koch lobbyist with Pyle, a Koch-funded former lobbyist, to lead the Department of Energy transition team efforts.

Pyle is the President of both IER and its sister advocacy organization, the American Energy Alliance (AEA), which are both heavily funded by the Koch brothers and their affiliates. Last year, IER and AEA received $3 million from the Koch donor network. Charles Koch was one of the original founders and board members of IER. Pyle’s Koch connections run even deeper, having served as Director of Federal Affairs for Koch Industries from 2001-2005.

The “Trump Administration’s Energy Plan” reads like a fossil fuel industry wish list, including 14 policy proposals such as:

  • Withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Climate agreement;
  • Increasing federal oil and natural gas leasing;
  • Lifting the coal lease moratorium;
  • Eliminating the Clean Power Plan;
  • Expediting approvals of LNG export terminals;
  • Moving forward with pipeline projects including the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipeline;
  • Rolling back federal fuel economy standards;
  • Ending the use of the social cost of carbon in agency rulemaking; and
  • Reconsidering the “endangerment finding” that found greenhouse gases to be a threat to public health and welfare.

The memo from Pyle was echoed in a blog post on the AEA website published on Friday, December 2, which lays out “A Blueprint for America’s Comeback” and includes many of the same policy proposals, similarly worded. The entirety of original memo is uploaded on the ExposedByCMD blog.

Are the Koch Brothers Controlling Trump Through Appointees?

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This is a guest post by ClimateDenierRoundup

Despite the fact that Trump campaigned against special interests and suggested his primary opponents who begged for Koch cash were puppets, he now seems to be happy to #StaffTheSwamp with Koch operatives.

Beyond Myron Ebell and David Schnare on his environment team, news broke last week that Trump picked Steven Groves to lead the Department of State “landing team.” Groves is an international policy wonk at the Koch (and Exxon, and Korean gov’t) funded Heritage Foundation, and just last week, he wrote an article advocating for a pull-out of the UNFCCC as a way to exit the Paris agreement.

As the negotiating framework for the UN’s climate efforts and the underlying basis for the Paris agreement, if the US were to leave the UNFCCC, it would remove us from the negotiating table altogether.

Not only would this “lead to political consequences with our allies,” as Groves admitted in a House Science hearing last April, but it would also mean that Trump wouldn’t be able to negotiate an amazing new treaty on climate, as the US would no longer be part of the negotiating framework.

But contradictory advice is nothing new to the Heritage Foundation, which during the Farm Bill fight in 2013 told the GOP to split the bill into two parts. When Republicans did as they were told, Heritage still wasn’t happy. Republican Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina said that “Heritage was now scoring against Republicans for doing exactly what Heritage had been espousing only a month before.” Because of this stunt, as well as their push for 2013’s government shutdown, former House speaker Boehner said that groups like Heritage had “lost all credibility.”

Unfortunately, from the top of the Trump administration down, a distinct lack of credibility seems to be the unifying factor. But it is ironic that despite the Koch network’s distinct lack of effort to Trump get elected, they are nonetheless filling Trump’s administration with their operatives, from VP Pence to CIA chief Pompeo to Ebell, Schnare and Groves. And on the Energy Department front, it’s been reported by E&E that Thomas Pyle of Koch-funded American Energy Alliance is running the transition, while the Interior is being led by Doug Domenech, of Koch-funded Texas Public Policy Foundation. And according to PoliticoPRO, on the Treasury team are Heritage-affiliated Bill Walton and Curtis Dubay.

The question is: does Trump even know the Kochs are pulling his strings? Or does he really think he’s “No puppet”?