Whales and Oil and Snake Oil

“I’d like to see a dinosaur but I’m not going to.”


Humanity killed millions of whales for their oil before we switched to fossil fuels, which are now helping to kill the remaining whales through global warming and plastics.

Axios Generate and Punchbowl News AM sponsor Chevron is not going to let a few whales stop it from drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.1 Yesterday, judges appointed by George W. Bush and Donald Trump on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Chevron’s favor to open a Gulf of Mexico oil and gas lease sale that environmental groups were opposing because it threatens the few living Rice’s whales, a newly recognized species that lives only in the Gulf of Mexico. There are believed to be only 51 left.

Bush-appointed Judge Catharina Haynes was skeptical that Earthjustice and the other environmental groups had standing to protect the whales, Niina Farah tells us:

“I’d like to see a dinosaur but I’m not going to. The fact that you’d like to see something, while I understand that’s important, does that matter?”

In July, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration proposed setting aside a swath of the Gulf as critical habitat for the whales, which has spurred the oil industry and its Republican allies into emergency mode to kill off the whales. Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) introduced a bill (H.R. 6008) to block protections for Rice’s whales that was favorably reported in a House Natural Resources Committee mark-up last week. Rep. Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) joined 21 Republicans in support of the bill—including eight representing ocean-coastline districts.2

Which is so weird because Fox News, Republicans, and right-wing think tanks are totally obsessed with saving whales—from offshore wind energy. It’s almost like Fox News, Republicans, and right-wing think tanks are in cahoots with the fossil-fuel industry! Molly Taft drills down on how “opposition to offshore wind in places like New Jersey has been juiced up by Republicans as well as fossil fuel–funded groups outside the state, pointing to a spate of mysterious whale deaths as evidence of turbines’ supposed destructive potential.”

Bonus whale snake oil story: Jared Kurkura exposes that climate-denying snake Michael Shellenberger, part of the fake whale oil front group Save the Right Whales Coalition, has been bullying Wikipedia editors to try to whitewash his Wikipedia entry.

Now I get it, they want to save the right whales, not the wrong whales.

The world’s nations are preparing for COP28 with diplomatic maneuvering in the right direction.

The European Union has approved new rules to tackle methane pollution. Ajit Niranjan reports that that “coal, oil and gas companies would be required to report their methane emissions” and will be responsible for “finding and fixing leaks, and limiting wasteful practices such as venting and flaring gas by 2027.” Unfortunately, there isn’t exactly a sense of urgency on rolling out these standards: “The European Commission will be tasked with determining a methodology for the maximum intensity of methane emissions by 2027, and the EU will apply it to imports by 2030.”

And after three days of intense negotiations at the Sunnylands retreat, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and China climate envory Xie Zhenhua announced that the two mega-climate-polluters were back to collaborative negotiations after diplomatic relations were broken off following then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 2022 visit to Taiwan. Their biggest concrete agreement was to support tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030 in order to “accelerate the substitution for coal, oil and gas generation,” but they also agreed to try to tackle methane and plastic pollution.

Finally, a great read from Yessenia Funes: As the founder of the political organization Climate Cabinet, Caroline Spears works to decarbonize our local elected officials. But as a renter in San Francisco, she couldn’t convince her landlord to get rid of a toxic, carbon-polluting gas stove. Yessenia uses the stories of apartment-dwelling climate activists like Spears, professor Leah Stokes, and climate-communications consultant Sage Canchola-Welch in a deep look at the challenges and promise of electrification of the 15 million U.S. rental units with gas hookups.

It’s time for these climate advocates to try harder. But mostly Greta Thunberg.

The House Financial Services Committee started bright and early with a 9:30 am oversight hearing of federal banking regulators, with the Federal Reserve vice chair for supervision Michael Barr, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chair Vice Chairman for Supervision Martin Gruenberg, National Credit Union Administration chair Todd Harper, and acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu. Among many proposed rules under the committee’s eye are the principles for climate-related financial risk management for large financial institutions. After a recess, Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) discussed the problem posed by proposed rules for clean-energy tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act.

At 10 am, Senate Environment chair Tom Carper (D-Del.) held a hearing on industrial decarbonization with an all-female panel of Breakthrough Energy’s Dr. Abigail Regitsky, Dr. Leah Ellis of the low-carbon cement startup Sublime Systems, and corporate hydrogen and carbon-capture lobbyist Shannon Angielski.

At 2:30 pm, Senate Indian Affairs marks up the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project Amendments Act, for the major project to supply water to Navajo Nation and Gallup, New Mexico by diverting it from the San Juan River.

At 3:30 pm, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee holds a hearing on the Veteran Affairs’s fourth mission: supporting emergency preparedness and response. That has included both Covid response as well as growing deployment of VA personnel and resources in the wake of climate disasters. The witnesses include VA emergency management director Bobby Small, Jr. and John Balbus, MD, MPH, deputy assistant secretary for climate change and health equity at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Hearings on the Hill:

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1 Chevron is also not going to let the war in Israel-Palestine stop it from drilling off the shore of the Gaza Strip.

2 Reps. Graves, Jerry Carl (Ala.), Jenniffer González Colón. (P.R.), Daniel Webster (Fla.), Jen Kiggans (Va.), James Moylan (Guam), Anna Paulina Luna (Fla.), and Aumua Amata Radewagen (American Samoa).

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