Factcheck.org has won a 2009 Webby "People's Voice" award, and The Daily Green thinks it is well deserved.
Designed to check the facts spouted by politicians and those seeking to influence politics and policy debates, the nonprofit Factcheck.org is an indispensable nonpartisan resource. (The Daily Green republishes the fact-checks related to energy and the environment, and nominated the site for one of its 2009 Heart of Green Awards.)
In celebration of the site's Webby, here's a look at six of its greatest recent hits:
1. There's enough wind power in the Atlantic to offset all the electricity we now get from coal.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made waves when he said the U.S. East Coast was so rich in wind that offshore wind farms could produce as much electricity as every U.S. coal-fired power plant. It sounds great. Coal, which produces roughly half our electricity, is a major source of pollution that causes smog, acid rain, mercury contamination and global warming; wind power causes none of these. Unfortunately, it's just not true, according to Factcheck.org. "We calculate that converting wind to enough electricity to replace all U.S. coal-fired plants would require building 3,540 offshore wind farms as big as the world's largest, which is off the coast of Denmark," Factcheck.org reported. "So far the U.S. has built exactly zero offshore wind farms."
2. Congress is outlawing your backyard organic garden.
A vast campaign, spread via e-mail, Facebook and elsewhere, has tried to convince people that a food safety bill being considered in Congress will wipe out organic farming as we know it, and even possibly make it illegal to have a garden in your backyard. According to Factcheck.org, though, there's hardly anything to worry about. "We suppose in the grand realm of all that's possible, or more likely a futuristic B movie, federal bureaucrats could decide that public safety calls for inspections of every backyard garden in the nation, leading everyday citizens to surreptitiously cultivate tomato plants in a closet with a sunlamp, lest they get busted by the cops," Factcheck.org concluded. "But we kinda doubt it."
3. "Clean coal" is a reality, or at least a possibility.
During the presidential campaign and beyond, as the coal industry and the Waterkeeper Alliance (yay Gloria Reuben!) and other environmental groups have engaged in an epic advertising battle, Factcheck.org has been tamping down enthusiasm for clean coal, which is an expensive concept for removing carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants, not a reality. "There are no commercial 'clean coal' plants operating currently in the U.S.," Factcheck.org reported. "The larger question posed by these dueling ad campaigns is implied rather than stated outright. Can coal can be 'clean' in the future? Is 'clean coal' a laudable, achievable goal as Obama and the coal miners and electric utilities would have us believe? Or is it a ridiculous oxymoron on par with 'controlled chaos,' as Gore and other environmental groups suggest?"
4. Congress outlawed second-hand clothing.
In the wake of toy safety scares (remember all those lead toy recalls? There are more nearly every week) Congress moved to get the lead (and the phthalates) out of toys, including those sold at second-hand shops. While the law doesn't explicitly ban the sale of second-hand clothing, selling children's clothing that contains lead or phthalates (think about colorful embossed designs) could result in a hefty fine, making this myth partially true. "A recently passed law won't ban resale, but it will hold resellers responsible for selling items with lead content that exceeds new limits," Factcheck.org reported. "Some resellers are fearful this will force them out of business."
5. The EPA wants to tax cows.
As the Environmental Protection Agency addresses global warming, it will crack down on agriculture, which -- through land use and the belching of cattle -- contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions. (The EPA's recent finding that global warming endangers public health and the environment is most likely to affect power plants and vehicles first.) Not possible, according to Factcheck.org: "EPA issued a statement saying it isn't proposing a tax and doesn't have legal authority to impose one anyway."
6. The U.S. is ignoring the world's largest oil reserve in the Western U.S.
According to an e-mail chain that vastly exaggerates its size, the Bakken formation in the Western U.S. is a ripe and ready oil source that the U.S. won't tap because of those darn tree huggers. (Sounds like the penultimate moment, before the laugh-line, in a Scooby Doo cartoon: "And I would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling kids!") Well, not quite. Not by a long shot, according to Factcheck.org. "Unfortunately, it is false. It combines and twists several different news stories and studies into a longer tale of sound and fury that ultimately signifies nothing (factually anyway)."
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