On the News With Thom Hartmann: More Than 100 Scientists and Economists Called on the Obama Administration to Reject Keystone XL, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Last week, more than 100 scientists and economists signed on to a letter calling on the Obama administration to reject the tar sands pipeline; Vermont says that residents have a right to know what’s in their food; it’s only April, but Oklahoma has already had more than 100 earthquakes; and more.


Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of….science & green news…..

You need to know this. The experts agree – President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should say “No” to Keystone XL. Last week, more than 100 scientists and economists signed on to a letter calling on the administration to reject the tar sands pipeline. Those experts include the lead authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, and Nobel Prize winners in physics and economics. They wrote, “We urge you to reject the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline as a project that will contribute to climate change at a time when we should be doing all we can to put clean energy alternatives in place.” They added, “Keystone XL is a step in the wrong direction.” These experts explained that the pipeline will increase global carbon emissions, and worsen the climate change crisis that we face. This letter came just one week after 200 business leaders also called on President Obama and Secretary Kerry to reject the pipeline, saying Keystone would be a bad business investment. And, these calls echo the two million comments that the State Department received against Keystone XL. Scientists, economists, business leaders, and the general public have all demanded that the Obama administration says “No” to this toxic tar sands pipeline. Keystone XL would allow a foreign company to hijack American land, leave us with their waste and pollution, and export their sludge to the global market. The only ones who will benefit from Keystone are the Oil Lobby and their billionaire investors. Our future is now in the hands of President Obama and Secretary Kerry, and we must demand that they listen to the experts, and say “No” to Keystone XL.

Vermont says that residents have a right to know what’s in their food. Last Thursday, the State Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a GMO labeling bill, and that legislation only has a few legal hurdles before becoming law. Vermont House Bill 112 already passed the state House in May of 2013, and it would go into effect in 2016 if the full state Senate and Governor approve of the final version. Although similar laws have been passed in Maine and Connecticut, those provisions are dependent on other states enacting labeling requirements. But, Vermont won’t wait on surrounding states before protecting people’s right to know what’s in their food, and state lawmakers say they’ll be proud to be the first to enact GMO-labeling requirements. The Vermont law provides time for food producers to adopt the new labels, and it includes a legal fund to defend these requirements in the event of a lawsuit. Once again, Vermont is leading the nation by enacting laws to protect its residents, and hopefully, more states will be brave enough to follow their lead.

It’s only April, and Oklahoma has already had more than 100 earthquakes. And, residents and officials say that these quakes are a direct result of oil and gas activity. Last year, state regulators shut down one drill site and curtailed operations at another after a series of earthquakes in that area. However, this year, there have been so many seismic events, that regulators are overwhelmed with trying to link the events to specific fracking sites. A research seismologist with the Oklahoma Geological Survey, Austin Holland, said, “We certainly likely have cases of earthquakes being caused by different oil and gas activity, [but] evaluating those carefully can take significant amounts of time, especially when we’re swamped.” Between 2000 and 2011, earthquakes have increased six-fold in the central United State, and the US Geological Society says that increase is linked to gas and oil drilling. We already know that fossil fuel extraction threatens our land, our air, and our water supply, and there is now plenty of evidence to show that Big Oil is also responsible for these earthquakes. How much more evidence do we need before we finally end our addiction to gas and oil?

About one year after the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, officials in Canada announced that they would stop testing seafood for radiation. However, one Canadian tenth grader says that imported seafood is still testing way above so-called safe levels. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency admits that it found more than 200 seafood samples contaminated with radiation in 2011 and 2012, but they said those samples were “found to be below Health Canada’s actionable levels for radiation.” As many experts predicted that it would take three years from the 2011 accident for the radiation plume to reach the North American West Coast, it appears that officials stopped testing before the bulk of the radiation even arrived. Using a $600 Geiger counter, Bronwyn Delacruz, a tenth-grader in Alberta, documented levels up to 1,800 counts per 10-minutes in kelp and seaweed – well above the level that International Atomic Energy Agency considers safe. Her amazing work was rewarded with gold honors at the regional science fair, and it has sparked concern over the lack of government testing in Canada and the US. Various independent studies have found Fukushima-related radiation in seafood throughout North America, and it should be our government – not a high school student – providing the public with this important information.

And finally… Last month, our government quietly made a big investment in clean energy. As part of a contract for the Illinois Department of Transportation, the US just committed $225 million dollars to purchase new hybrid electric trains. Although that number may sound astronomical, the trains only cost about a million dollars more than regular trains. However, they’ll save us a ton on fuel costs, and create more American jobs. The trains will be manufactured by Cummins in Columbus, Indiana, and they will run through Washington, Michigan, Missouri, and California. Similar trains have reduced carbon emissions and energy use by 25 percent in Germany, and that spells big savings here in the US. Although we need to go further in the fight against climate change, these trains are a great step towards a cleaner, greener future.

And that’s the way it is for the week of April 14, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann, on Science & Green News.