One Word: Microplastics

It should be a national scandal


It should be a national scandal, replete with lawsuits and Capitol Hill hearings,” the incandescent Kate Aronoff writes, “that the companies responsible for the microplastics in our food, our tap water, our oceans, our bodies, even our placentas—truly everywhere—have cooked up one of the most successful, destructive lies in U.S. environmental history.”

The oil majors like ExxonMobil and Shell who are the main producers of petro-plastics have known for decades that plastic recycling is bunk. As the Center for Climate Integrity’s Davis Allen, Chelsea Linsley, Naomi Spoelman, and Alyssa Johl uncover, “petrochemical companies—independently and through their industry trade associations and front groups—have engaged in fraudulent marketing and public education campaigns designed to mislead the public about the viability of plastic recycling as a solution to plastic waste.”

And now their toxic waste courses through our veins.

The one policy maker most interested in Capitol Hill hearings on the scandal of plastics is Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.). He has been using his perch as chair of the environmental subcommittee on toxic waste to hold a series of briefings and hearings on plastics. Today, his committee is investigating microplastics in water. The witnesses at today’s hearing include the ecotoxicologist Dr. Susanne M. Brander of Oregon State, freshwater plastic pollution expert Dr. Sherri A. Mason of Penn State Behrend, and membrane filtration expert Brent Alspach.1

Speaking of the fossil fuel industry’s toxic waste, new research finds that airborne soot micropollution causes dementia as it pollutes our brains. I wonder how long we’ll have to wait before scientists can confirm the effect of microplastics on our brains.

“In the 165 years since the first American oil well struck black gold, the industry has punched millions of holes in the earth, seeking profits gushing from the ground,” ProPublica’s Mark Olalde and Capitol & Main’s Nick Bowlin write. “Now, those wells are running dry, and a generational bill is coming due.”

Texas fracking billionaire Tim Dunn is making sure it won’t be him, having spent millions to reshape the politics of his state in line with his petro-theocratic worldview. In a must-read piece in Texas Monthly, Russell Gold unveils how Dunn has been “quietly, methodically, and patiently building a political machine that has pushed Texas forcefully to the right.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Collin Eaton, Elizabeth Findell and Benoît Morenne have followed up, describing Dunn’s plans for our national politics through the vehicle of a second Donald Trump presidency advised by his ultra-right America First Policy Institute and its sister organization America First Legal, run by the neo-fascist Stephen Miller.

Politico’s Benjamin Storrow lets us know that NextEra Energy, putatively a “clean energy giant,” is working hard to kill a renewable-energy transmission line through Maine, mainly to protect its investment in the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire. Similarly, NextEra’s subsidiary Florida Power & Light, which generates 75 percent of its electricity with fossil fuels, is one of the biggest political enemies of solar energy.

National Public Radio’s Michael Levitt, Tinbete Ermyas, Ari Shapiro, and Kat Lonsdorf interview West Virginians about their perceptions of the Inflation Reduction Act, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and the energy transition. As local coal jobs continue their decades-long descent toward zero, driven by the decline of coal reserves, automation, union-busting and the rise of fracked gas, hyper-conservative locals are blaming the state’s new wind farms. While this partisan framing is absurd, researcher Eleanor Krause notes that the IRA is structured to drive hundreds of billions of dollars to corporations and much less for workforce development. So the general sense the Manchin didn’t look out for West Virginians is spot on.

Kevin Trenberth is one of the smartest climate scientists alive. Now retired, he’s free to express his justifiably cranky thoughts on the foibles of the climate-science-explainer industry. In a new piece, he gets at the distinction between fossil-fueled global heating and the rise in global temperatures due to that heating. Because most of the heating goes into warming the oceans and melting the cryosphere, the rise in temperatures is only a secondary effect of the burning of fossil fuels. And it is the heating that drives most of the extreme weather events that are so destructive.

Throughout his long career, Trenberth has laid the foundation for our scientific understanding of how global warming is disrupting and intensifying the global water cycle, as NBC’s Denise Chow and Evan Bush summarize.

Elon Musk’s Las Vegas tunnel is oozing with skin-burning chemical sludge.

The Willy Wonka Experience, brought to you by AI.

Hearings on the Hill:

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1 Sen. Cyntha Lummis (R-Wyo.), the ranking member on the subcommittee, is a microplastics denier, claiming “there’s no consensus” on the threat.

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