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June 17 2013

19:51

Enviro News Wrap: The Will for Climate Action; Exxon Spills Big, Pays Little; Distributed Power to the People, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • Climate Change is technically preventable. I’m not talking about historic climate change, not talking about natural fluctuations. I’m talking about the phenomenon of our environment changing due to human caused disruptions. We are pumping out waste, using up resources, transforming landscapes, increasing temperatures, killing off species, removing habitat, and Earth is responding. We could reduce our emissions of junk , we could change how we create and use energy, we could do large carbon capture projects, we could do a lot, and everyday, as our technology advances, it gets cheaper to accomplish these things. But, are our governments going to act in the next 10 years? I don’t think so, I think governments will get really involved when we clearly need a collective response to the devastating effects of climate change. We are on track to do very little prevention followed by a long saga of adaption.
  • ExxonMobil keeps spilling oil and only getting small fines for big damages. As long as they can profit off of damaging the environment illegally they will continue to do it.
  • Better Place was a company that had a great idea: provide a battery service to owners of electric vehicles (EV) making EV ownership easy. But their effort seems to have been made a little early to be successful. EVs will still rise in popularity in the next 20 years, but companies like Tesla are poised to be the ones that make a long term profit from electric vehicles.
  • Oil pipelines are not safe. They are built on the cheap and have minimal regulation, inspection and maintenance. Fossil fuels have an inherent problem, you have to transport, refine and distribute a toxic product thousands of miles and there are many opportunities for spilling.
  • Pharmaceutical drugs cycle back into nature and other animals consume them. Fish are high on prozac, oxycotin, benedryl, MDMA and so much more.
  • If urban density is better than country sprawl, how tall do our buildings have to get to accommodate population growth? Elevator lift technology is improving and will allow us to build super tall buildings, much taller than the skyscrapers in Dubai.
  • Sometimes the sun does not shine and sometimes the wind does not blow, this is a harsh reality for wind and solar power. To get electricity consistently each day we need other energy sources and often they are the dirty, like coal and natural gas. But, what if we had enough advanced batteries to provide consistent energy from renewable sources and could ditch dirty energy? California is leading the way by attempting to install a lot of batteries in a short period of time.
  • Energy created by users is called distributed generation, energy created by a utility and sold to users is called centralized generation. Utilities centralize generation where they hold the power and the users only have the power of government influenced by private interests. Distributed generation is becoming disruptive generation as utilities struggle to control a new power structure. I wonder if they will figure out how to get us back under their thumbs? The utility could only allow distributed generation that is leased by themselves and then pay subcontractors to do the installations.
  • The renewable energy industry is shifting its focus to the developing world where there is a lot of untapped potential for energy projects.

 

 

The post Enviro News Wrap: The Will for Climate Action; Exxon Spills Big, Pays Little; Distributed Power to the People, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 03 2012

12:00

Delaware Tax Haven: The Other Shale Gas Industry Loophole

Most people think of downtown Houston, Texas as ground zero for the oil and gas industry. Houston, after all, serves as home base for corporate headquarters of oil and gas giants, including the likes of BP America, ConocoPhillips, and Shell Oil Company, to name a few.

Comparably speaking, few would think of Wilmington, Delaware in a similar vein. But perhaps they should, according to a recent New York Times investigative report by Leslie Wayne.

Wayne's story revealed that Delaware serves as what journalist Nicholas Shaxson calls a "Treasure Island" in his recent book by that namesake. It's an "onshore tax haven" and an even more robust one than the Caymen Islands, to boot.

The Delaware "Island" is heavilized utilized by oil and gas majors, all of which are part of the "two-thirds of the Fortune 500" corporations parking their money in The First State.

Delaware is an outlier in the way it does business,” David Brunori, a professor at George Washington Law School told The Times. “What it offers is an opportunity to game the system and do it legally.”

The numbers are astounding. "Over the last decade, the Delaware loophole has enabled corporations to reduce the taxes paid to other states by an estimated $9.5 billion," Wayne wrote

"More than 900,000 business entities choose Delaware as a location to incorporate," explained another report. "The number…exceeds Delaware's human population of 850,000."

Marcellus Shale Frackers Utilize the "Delaware Loophole" 

The New York Times story also demonstrated that the shale gas industry has become an expert at utilizing the "Delaware Loophole" tax haven to dodge taxes, just as it is a champion at dodging chemical fluid disclosure and other accountability to the Safe Drinking Water Act, thanks to the "Halliburton Loophole." The latter is explained in great detail in DeSmogBlog's "Fracking the Future."

Utilization of the "Delaware Loophole" is far from the story of a few bad apples gone astray for the industry. As Wayne explains, the use of this "onshore tax haven" is the norm.

More than 400 corporate subsidiaries linked to Marcellus Shale gas exploration have been registered in Delaware, most within the last four years, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, a nonprofit group based in Harrisburg that studies the state’s tax policy.

In 2004, the center estimated that the Delaware loophole had cost the state $400 million annually in lost revenue — and that was before the energy boom.

More than two-thirds of the companies in the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry alliance based in Pittsburgh, are registered to a single address: 1209 North Orange Street, according to the center.

These fiscal figures, as Wayne points out, predate the ongoing shale gas "Gold Rush" in the Marcellus. SEIU of Pennsylvania has calculated $550 million/year in lost tax revenue in the state from the shale gas industry due to the loophole.

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives set out to tackle the "Delaware Loophole" quagmire in the spring of 2012, but merely offered half-measure legislation that would have allowed corporations - including the frackers - to continue gaming the system. Coryn S. Wolk of the activist group Protecting Our Waters summarized the bill in a recent post:

In March, 2012, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives created a bipartisan bill, HB 2150, aimed at closing corporate tax loopholes. However, as the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center noted in their detailed opposition to the bill, the bill would have cost Pennsylvania more money by soothing corporations with major tax cuts and leaving the loopholes accessible to any clever accountant.

Tax cheating in Delaware goes far above and beyond the Marcellus Shale. All of the oil and gas majors, with operations around the world, take full advantage of all Delaware has to offer.

"Piping Profits"

If things in this sphere were only limited to shale gas companies operating in the Marcellus Shale, the battle would seem big. Big, but not insurmountable.

Yet, as the Norway-based NGOPublish What You Pay points out in a recent report titled, "Piping profits: the secret world of oil, gas and mining giants," the game is more rigged than most would like to admit.

How rigged? Overwhelmingly so.

The report shows that ConocoPhillips, Chevron, and ExxonMobil have 439 out of their combined 783 subsidiaries located in well-known tax havens around the world, including in Delaware. All three companies maintain fracking operations, as well, meaning they benefit from both the Halliburton and Delaware Loopholes.

Adding BP and Shell into the mix, Publish What You Pay revealed that the five majors have 749 tax haven subsidiaries located in Delaware out of a grand total of 3,632 global tax haven subsidiaries. This amounts to 20.6-percent of them, to be precise.

These figures moved Publish What You Pay's Executive Director, Mona Thowsen, to conclude, “What this study shows is that the extractive industry ownership structure and its huge use of secrecy jurisdictions may work against the urgent need to reduce corruption and aggressive tax avoidance in this sector."

Tax Justice Network: $21-$32 Trillion Parked in Offshore Accounts

A recent lengthy report titled "The Price of Offshore Revisited" by the Tax Justice Network reveals just how big of a problem tax havens are on a global scale, reaching far beyond Delaware's boundaries.

As Democracy Now! explained,

[The] new report…reveals how wealthy individuals and their families have between $21 and $32 trillion of hidden financial assets around the world in what are known as offshore accounts or tax havens. The conservative estimate of $21 trillion—conservative estimate—is as much money as the entire annual economic output of the United States and Japan combined. The actual sums could be higher because the study only deals with financial wealth deposited in bank and investment accounts, and not other assets such as property and yachts.

The inquiry…is being touted as the most comprehensive report ever on the "offshore economy." 

The Democracy Now! interview below is worth watching on the whole, as oil and gas industry "offshoring" is but the tip of the iceberg.

Photo CreditGunnar Pippel | ShutterStock

Exhaustive Study Finds Global Elite

July 20 2012

15:30

On Our Radar: The Failed Climategate Inquiry

The British police said it was closing the e-mail theft case because there was no realistic chance of prosecuting anyone before a three-year statute of limitations ran out this November.

March 21 2012

23:20

ALEC Climate Change Denial Model Bill Passes in Tennessee

The month of March has seen unprecedented heat and temperatures. A rational thinking, scientifically-grounded individual could only posit, "Well, hmm, I bet climate change has something to do with the fact that in Madison, WI, it is 80 degrees in mid-March. Sometimes it's 60 or 70 degrees colder than this!"

While that individual would be positing something that is the well-accepted scientific consensus, in some states, under law, that is only a "controversial theory among other theories."

Welcome to Tennessee, which on March 19th became the fourth state with a legal mandate to incorporate climate change denial as part of the science education curriculum when discussing climate change.

First it was Louisiana, back in 2009, then Texas in 2009, South Dakota in 2010 and now Tennessee has joined the club, bringing the total to four U.S. states that have mandated climate change denial in K-12 "science" education. 

Many other states could follow in their footsteps as well, given that, as DeSmogBlog exposed in late-January, this is an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill, a near miror image of its Orwellian-titled "Environmental Literacy Improvement Act."[PDF]

The machinations of ALEC are best explained by the Center for Media and Demoracy's "ALEC Exposed" project.

The ALEC bill passed as H.B. 368 and S.B. 893, with 70-23 and 24-8 roll call votes, respectively. Tennesse Republican Governor Bill Haslam is likely to sign the bill into law soon.

read more

March 12 2012

17:54

Enviro News Wrap: Fracking Causes Earthquakes in Ohio; Exxon Plans on High Oil Prices; American Enterprise Institute’s Trouble with Math


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

March 10 2012

22:42

Big Oil Rakes In Billions, Still Complains Taxes Are Too High

The President rolled out his FY2013 budget recently, which includes eliminating $40 billion in tax breaks from Big Oil companies, such as BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and Shell. Meanwhile, the American Petroleum Institute's response would have you believe that cutting the subsidies would be the equivalent of moving back into their parents' basement.

It's propaganda at its most repetitive, crying that they are "job creators" and that it's so "unfair" to raise taxes because they already contribute millions to the economy every day, and if you do they swear to god prices will rise and the inevitable dependency on foreign oil will bring about the apocalypse itself if you don't let them have their way.

That's like Donald Trump begging to not get kicked out of rent-stabilized, low-income housing even when raking in billions annually, and then threatening to trash the place once the landlord actually puts up an eviction notice.

It's true. The combined profit of the "big 5" oil companies listed above was $137 billion last year, with ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips coming in first, fourth, and 15th, respectively, on the Fortune 100 list of most profitable companies.

read more

February 14 2012

23:08
09:36

Unethical Oil: Why Is Canada Killing Wolves and Muzzling Scientists To Protect Tar Sands Interests?

In the latest and perhaps most astonishing display of the tar sands industry’s attacks on science and our democracy, the government of Alberta has made plans to initiate a large-scale wolf slaughter to provide cover for the destruction wrought by the industrialization of the boreal forest ecosystem.

In the coming years, an anticipated 6,000 wolves will be gunned down from helicopters above, or killed by poison strychnine bait planted deep in the forest. Biologists and other experts say the cull is misguided, and that their studies have been ignored or suppressed. Worse, they warn that although the government is framing the wolf cull as a temporary measure, it has no foreseeable end.

The Alberta government has already initiated the wolf cull in regions of Alberta heavily affected by industrial development. In the Little Smoky region, an area heavily affected by the forestry, oil and gas industries and just a few hundred kilometeres away from the tar sands region, a broad wolf cull has already begun, claiming the lives of more than 500 wolves.

Recently the Alberta government proposed a plan to open this brutal form of 'wildlife management' to other regions, suggesting an extensive and costly cull in place of more responsible industrial development.

This is clear evidence of the fact that Alberta’s tar sands oil is unquestionably conflict oil, despite the propaganda spouted by the “ethical oil” deception campaign. Aside from its desruptive affects on wildlife, tar sands oil is dirty, carbon intensive and energy inefficient from cradle to grave.

And that’s without mentioning the role the tar sands boom has played in Canada’s slide from climate leader to key villain on the international stage. Beyond its environmental consequences, tar sands extraction has negatively affected local tourism and recreation-based economies, impacted public health and torn at the rich fabric of cultural diversity and pride among Albertans and all Canadians. 

Behind the Harper administration’s unbounded drive to drown Canada’s reputation in tar sands oil pollution lies the political corruption characteristic of the classic petro-state. Free speech is being oppressed, while respected members of the scientific community claim they are being muzzled, ignored and intimidated.
 
Conservation and environmental groups are being falsely attacked as ‘radical ideologues' and 'saboteurs'. Neighbors are pitted against each other while important decisions about the future prosperity of all Canadians are rigged to favor the interests of multinational oil companies and foreign investors.
 
The wolf cull is ostensibly designed to protect northern Alberta’s woodland caribou, a species that in recent years has become critically threatened. But scientists have ridiculed the plan, saying this sort of ‘wildlife management’ turns the wolf into an innocent scapegoat, while the real culprit – the province’s aggressive timber, oil and gas development – is spared any real scrutiny or accountability.
 
According to this strategy, caribou and wolf alike fall prey to another kind of predator: multinational corporations.

read more

February 09 2012

21:01

Accountability Moment: Manhattan Institute's Robert Bryce Squirms And Evades Question on Fossil Fuel Funding

Robert Bryce from the fossil fuel industry-funded Manhattan Institute just can't bring himself to answer a simple question about the fossil fuel industry funding flowing into his group. Readers of DeSmogBlog may recall our previous coverage about Bryce's anti-clean energy attacks in the New York Times op-ed pages and elsewhere.

Citing the prime example of Robert Bryce's conflict of interest, I asked the Public Editor at the New York Times last year why the paper doesn't require its op-ed contributors to disclose their funding sources so that readers can make up their own minds about the potential bias of these contributors.

Since Bryce is typically only listed as a Manhattan Institute senior fellow, that doesn't let the reader know that his organization has received a significant amount of money from dirty energy interests including ExxonMobil and Koch Industries. That's an important factor in evaluating the rationale behind Mr. Bryce's bias against clean energy.

Watch below as Gabe Elsner, my friend at the Checks and Balances Project, asks Bryce the simple question about his funding from fossil fuel interests. 

Gabe explains: 

I asked Bryce if he had financial ties to the fossil fuel industry after his debate appearance before the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners conference on Monday. Not only did Bryce refuse to answer the question, he also launched into an angry, finger-pointing tirade saying that I’d “made up” the amount of fossil fuel support documented by Manhattan Institute records.

Watch the clip with Gabe's analysis embedded:

read more

February 03 2012

21:00

Warren Buffett Exposed: The Oracle of Omaha and the Tar Sands

On January 23, Bloomberg News reported Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), owned by his lucrative holding company Berkshire Hathaway, stands to benefit greatly from President Barack Obama’s recent cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline

If built, TransCanada's Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline would carry tar sands crude, or bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta, B.C. down to Port Arthur, Texas, where it would be sold on the global export market

If not built, as revealed recently by DeSmogBlog, the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side, and could include increased levels of ecologically hazardous gas flaring in the Bakken Shale, or else many other pipeline routes moving the prized dilbit to crucial global markets.

Rail is among the most important infrastructure options for ensuring tar sands crude still moves to key global markets, and the industry is pursuing rail actively. But transporting tar sands crude via rail is in many ways a dirtier alternative to the KXL pipeline. “Railroads too present environmental issues. Moving crude on trains produces more global warming gases than a pipeline,” explained Bloomberg.

A key mover and shaker behind the push for more rail shipments is Warren Buffett, known by some as the “Oracle of Omaha” — of "Buffett Tax" fame — and the third richest man in the world, with a net worth of $39 billion. With or without Keystone XL, Warren Buffett stands to profit enormously from multiple aspects of the Alberta Tar Sands project. He also, importantly, maintains close ties with President Barack Obama.

read more

January 23 2012

20:35

Enviro News Wrap: The Sheen Comes off Natural Gas; the True Cost of Oil; At-Risk Species, and more…


The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

 

02:15

American Petroleum Institute's Jack Gerard Fact Checked By Activists During Speech

Guest post by Connor Gibson, cross-posted from Polluterwatch.

Two days ago, President Obama denied the permit for the destructive Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, much to the dismay of Big Oil's top lobbyist and propagandist. Speaking at the National Press Club to an audience dominated by oil, coal and nuclear representatives and lobbyists, American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard continued to lash out at President Obama over the pipeline decision. However, activists attending their event fact checked Jack's big oil talking points.

Shortly after asking the president, "what are you thinking?!" a group of activists stood and delivered a call-and-response "fact check" over Gerard's speech — see the full Fact Check video. After the event, PolluterWatch's Connor Gibson approached Jack Gerard on camera and repeatedly asked him how much the American Petroleum Institute (API) is spending on its new "Vote 4 Energy" advertising campaign (which, as Mr. Gerard has absurdly claimed, is "not an advertising campaign"). Jack refused to answer:

Vote 4 Energy, which was mocked by a parody commercial during its public release, is the American Petroleum Institute's newest money dump to pretend that most Americans support politicians who represent Big Oil more than their own constituents. Wrapping its talking points in patriotic rhetoric, API's real intent is to continue getting billions of taxpayer dollars each year to corporations like ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron, which rank among the most profitable companies in the world


Vote 4 Energy sets the stage for API to push its key priorities—unlimited offshore drilling, including in the Arctic, hydraulic fracturing for gas, pushing the rejected Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and keeping those massive taxpayer subsidies
 
On E&E TV yesterday, Jack Gerard was asked to address the fact that Keystone XL serves as a tool to export large amounts of Canadian tar sands to foreign markets after pumping it across the US. Rather than being able to echo API's dishonest claims of "energy security" through increased access to Canadian oil, Gerard was forced to acknowledge that Keystone XL could be used to boost foreign exports.
 
Despite a rocky week and an advertising campaign mocked by the spoof Vote 4 Energy commercial, Jack Gerard will continue working to increase Big Oil's influence on our election. Numerous API advertisements are airing across the country and API is holding "Energy Forums" in key states, peddling their energy lies to American voters. What voters should keep in mind is that Big Oil's Vote 4 Energy advertising campaign is really about a Vote 4 Big Oil.

 

Guest post by Connor Gibson, cross-posted from Polluterwatch

November 29 2011

23:06

To Understand What's Happening with Fracking Decisions in New York, Follow the Money

In a November 25 article titled, "Millions Spent in Albany Fight to Drill for Gas," The New York Times reported:

Companies that drill for natural gas have spent more than $3.2 million lobbying state government since the beginning of last year, according to a review of public records. The broader natural gas industry has been giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign accounts of lawmakers and the governor…The companies and industry groups have donated more than $430,000 to New York candidates and political parties, including over $106,000 to Mr. Cuomo, since the beginning of last year, according to a coming analysis of campaign finance records by Common Cause.

Those who were wondering the motive behind NY Democratic Governor Anthony Cuomo's decision to lift New York's moratorium on fracking now have a better sense for his enthusiasm: campaign cash.

Back in June, I wrote,

Despite the copiously-documented ecological danger inherent in the unconventional drilling process and in the…gas emissions process, as well as the visible anti-fracking sentiment of the people living in the Marcellus Shale region, Cuomo has decided it's 'go time.' Other than in New York City's watershed, inside a watershed used in the city of Syracuse, in underground water sources deemed important in cities and towns, as well on state lands, spanning from parks and wildlife preserves, 85% of the state's lands are now fair game for fracking, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

It is clear that Cuomo did not have science on the top of his priority list when making his decision to lift the moratorium. 

But as any good reporter knows, possibly one of the most crucial tenets of good jouranlism is to follow the money, which is just what the Times and Common Cause did. 

What we are seeing is the concerted application of really a substantial amount of money to try to move public policy into a pro-fracking stance. It is a tremendous amount of pressure on our state government," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause New York, to The New York Times.

Common Cause and The New York Times, then, have shed more light as to why Cuomo decided to make this decision and the light is colored green, the color of money

November 18 2011

20:25

Monckton Reaches New Heights of Anti-Environmentalism

CLIMATE science denial think-tank the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow is flying a four-strong delegation to next week’s UN climate conference in South Africa, with a promise to engage in a “balanced, civil and genuine” dialogue.

But the chances of much civility appear to be somewhere between zero and naught, given their delegate Lord Christopher Monckton’s latest outpouring of bilious, conspiratorial anti-environmentalism.
 
During a video chat with The Daily Caller’s Ginni Thomas, Monckton claims environmental groups “hate humanity”, that the UN process (which he is flying into at Durban) is to “set-up a world government” and throws around claims of fascism and communism like confetti. 
 
Never a man to understate his case, CFACT delegate Lord Monckton is fast becoming the Harold Camping of the climate science denial industry, claiming the global warming “scare” is an attempt to “shut down the West”, “stamp out democracy” and establish “a tyranny over the mind of man”.
 
The cleanest form of energy on the planet? Monckton tells host Ginni Thomas, it’s “coal”.
The fact is that if we allow our fossil fuels to be interfered with or priced out of the market, so as to subside futile, bird-killing, bat-slicing windmills, or these ridiculous solar panels, then all we do is cut of our nose to spite our face
Now the trouble with this is, that it’s actually fossil fuels that are receiving the bulk of subsidies. According to that famous left-wing environmental organisation, the International Energy Agency, fossil fuel industries received $409 billion in 2010 (up from $300 billion in 2009).
 
Monckton tells Thomas that he “likes to speak for freedom".  Actually, Monckton also likes to threaten to sue people who disagree with him, which isn’t quite speaking for freedom.
 
Monckton has issued threats to sue Guardian columnist George Monbiot, scientist professors Scott Mandia and John Abraham and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. He also went to the UK’s High Court in an unsuccessful bid to have his own response inserted at the end of a BBC-commissioned documentary Meet the Climate Skeptics.
 
Lord Monckton also attacks plans being discussed in the state of Maryland for a more sustainable future. If implemented in full, Monckton says the plan will take the state “back to the stone-age but without even the right to light a carbon emitting fire in your cave.”

Alarmist, anyone?
 
Actually, caves as housing options aren’t mentioned in Maryland’s plan, but it does talk of the utter evils of a "range of housing densities, types, and sizes… for citizens of all ages and incomes”.
 
The plan also states how quality of life can come through “universal stewardship of the land, water, and air resulting in sustainable communities and protection of the environment”.
 
Elsewhere in Lord Monckton’s tirade, he says that raising CO2 levels “would hugely increase yields of crops - the extra carbon dioxide is tree food”. He adds that “if you want to green the planet, then what you want is more carbon dioxide and not less”.
 
I asked Associate Professor Ros Gleadow of Monash University and President of the Australian Society of Plant Scientists, about this common meme that CO2 is merely "food for plants" and that increasing it would just raise crop yields.
 
She told DeSmogBlog that under enhanced CO2, the nutritional quality and protein levels of most plants decreases. This could affect plants such as wheat, where protein levels are vital in bread making. Because protein levels would fall, this reduction could also affect the ability of humans to tolerate cyanide, which gets released when foods such as cassava – a staple in Africa - are eaten.
 
She added because plants grown in higher CO2 regimes need fewer leaves to grow, this would also impact on animals which ate those leaves.
 
For Australia, this means koalas. Just before Lord Monckton came to the land of koalas for a mining-industry sponsored tour earlier this year, he compared the country’s former climate policy adviser Professor Ross Garnaut to a Nazi and used a picture of a large swastika next to a quote from Professor Garnaut to ram his point home.
 
On arriving in Australia, Monckton issued an apology – of sorts – saying he had been “catastrophically stupid and offensive” and that he had written to Professor Garnaut to withdraw the comment “unreservedly”.
 
But in his interview with Ginni Thomas, Monckton now claims his previously “catastrophically stupid” statement was actually “very mild”.
 
You don’t actually hear Ginni Thomas at all during the interview, so at no point does she even attempt to restrain or challenge his stataments.
 
But perhaps the most conspiratorial part of the interview, comes when Monckton claims that Google had been paid “something like a quarter of a million dollars” to publish bogus pages on the internet in order to push a video of him down the search engine’s page ranking. Without this intervention, Monckton claim modestly the video would have "gone to 20 million" and been "unstoppable".
 
A Google spokesperson told DeSmogBlog
Google ranks websites to deliver the best possible results for users. We rely on a fundamentally algorithmic approach because this is the most scalable way to answer more than a billion search queries each day. Search rankings are completely unrelated to Google’s paid advertising services and other partnerships, and there is absolutely no way for a webmaster to pay money to increase search rankings.
According to research by MediaMatters, CFACT has received more than $2million in funding over the years from ExxonMobil and foundation’s chaired by Richard Scaife, the billionaire heir to the Mellon family’s oil, banking and aluminium businesses.
 
In addition, CFACT also received $160,000 in 2010 from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, according to the foundation’s latest annual report
 
For the record, SSF also gave $250,000 to the George C Marshall Institute, another promoter of climate science misinformation, and $600,000 to the Heritage Foundation, which heavily downplays the need to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and argues against scientific consensus. The Allegheny Foundation, also chaired by Richard Scaife, gave $1.25 million to Heritage last year.
 

Given their funding, CFACT can obviously afford to stick Lord Monckton on a plane to Durban to attend a UN conference. Let's hope he doesn't run into any more of those "Hitler Youth".

 

13:15

ExxonMobil and Shell Eyeing North American LNG Export Deals

Yesterday, LNG World News reported that ExxonMobil Vice President Andrew Swiger announced, at a conference hosted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, that it was actively seeking LNG (liquefied natural gas) export terminals throughout North America, including, but not limited to, in British Columbia and on the Gulf Coast.

In terms of exports from North America, whether it is the Gulf Coast or whether it is Western Canada, it’s something we’re actively looking at,” said Swiger.

So, where are these prospective export terminals located, what are the key pipelines carrying the unconventional gas produced from shale basins, and what are the key shale basins in the mix? Hold tight for an explanation.

Golden Pass LNG Terminal and Golden Pass Pipeline

The LNG World News article explains that ExxonMobil "has a stake in the Golden Pass LNG Terminal in Texas," but does not explain exactly what the "stake" is.

A bit of research shows that ExxonMobil is a 17.6% stakeholder in the Golden Pass LNG Terminal, according to a March 2011 article publshed by Platts. It is co-owned by ConocoPhillips and Qatar Petroleum, who own a 12.4% and 70% stake in Golden Pass LNG, respectively.

Golden Pass LNG is stationed in Sabine Pass, TX, located on the Gulf Coast on the Texas-Louisiana border, which is in close proximity to Cheniere's Sabine Pass LNG export terminal, a terminal which has been written about in-depth by DeSmogBlog.

As of now, Golden Pass is an import terminal, and "is among the largest LNG import facilities worldwide, with the capacity to import 15.6 million metric tons of LNG annually," explains LNG World News. But many import facilities have turned into export facilities, including the Jordan Cove LNG terminal in Coos Bay, Oregon, the Dominion Cove LNG terminal in Lusby, Maryland, and Kitimat LNG terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia. Gas corporations often execute the bait-and-switch, transforming what were originally import terminals into export terminals.

If history repeats itself, which is highly likely based on this latest report from LNG World News, then the Golden Pass LNG Terminal could soon be transformed into an export terminal, making it export terminal number two in Sabine Pass.

It appears for now that the gas would come from the shale basins surrounding Sabine Pass, meaning the Barnett Shale, the Eagle Ford Shale, the Haynesville Shale, and the Fayetteville Shale, and flow out these respective shale basins via an extensive pipeline system, to the key Golden Pass and Sabine Pass hubs. 

For example, Golden Pass also owns Golden Pass Pipeline, which runs from the Haynesville Shale down to the Golden Pass LNG terminal.

Horn River Basin Shale and Pacific Trail Pipelines

LNG World News' article also mentions that ExxonMobil "has 340,000 shale gas acres in Western Canada’s Horn River Basin." The Horn River Shale Basin is located in northeastern British Columbia and sits on 250 trillion cubic feet of unconventional gas, producred through the toxic hydraulic fracturing, or fracking process. 

Assuming ExxonMobil holds true to the pronouncement made by Swiger, much of the gas produced in the Horn River Basin will flow westward to Kitimat LNG export terminal, which ships gas to the Asian market. 

One of these facilities is co-owned by EOG Resources (EOG), EnCana Corporation (EnCana), and Apache Corporation (Apache). In October 2011, Canada’s National Energy Board, the Canadian equivalent to the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, granted Kitimat LNG a 20-year Export Licence to serve international markets. The Pacific Trail Pipelines connect the Horn River Basin to the Kitimat LNG facility and are also co-owned by EOG, EnCana, and Apache. 

Another key LNG export terminal in the works will be co-owned by Shell, Korea Gas Corporation, China National Petroleum Corporation, and Mitsubishi Corporation.

The Globe and Mail explained the looming deal, writing

Shell is examining plans for a 3.6 billion cubic feet a day project, which would be among the largest under consideration in the world…Kitimat LNG intends to build a 700-million cubic foot facility first, at a cost greater than $5-billion, but has received an export licence that allows it to double that. The partnership intends to make a final investment decision early next year, but is already spending several hundred million dollars to terrace the sloped site of the intended terminal, the first step in construction.

A pipeline arrangement paralleling the EOG, EnCana, Apache agreement will likely follow the Shell export deal announcement, carrying gas fracked from the Horn River Shale Basin to Kitimat, in order to be exported, in the form of LNG, to the profitable Asian market. 

North American Export Market a Huge Racket

As is now perfectly clear and has been made clear by DeSmogBlog on multiple occasions, not only is the unconventional gas industry unconcerned with the "domestic consumption" of gas for "national security" purposes, but perhaps even more importantly, two of the largest fossil fuel corporations in the world, Shell and ExxonMobil, are now in the fray of the export game.

Deals of this nature will likely proliferate as time progresses, with what has been coined the "one-percent" by the Occupy Wall Street movement, standing with the most to gain from them.

November 17 2011

20:28

ExxonMobil and Shell Stamp Huge Oil and Gas Deals in Iraq

Just a few weeks after President Barack Obama announced U.S. troops are "leaving" the war-torn country, ExxonMobil and Shell each announced major new oil and gas production agreements in Iraq.

On November 12, ExxonMobil signed an oil production deal with the Kurdish Regional Government to drill in Iraqi Kurdistan, located in northern Iraq. This comes on top of an existing oil deal it landed in 2009, to drill for oil in the West Qurna Field, located in southern Iraq.

The New York Times explained both deals:

Exxon and its partners agreed to invest $50 billion over seven years to increase output by about two million barrels of oil per day there, at West Qurna Phase 1, bringing more new oil to market than the United States currently produces in the Gulf of Mexico. Margins, though, are low. Kurdistan offers more lucrative production-sharing agreements, allowing the company to earn a larger share of revenues and to count more of the crude on its books, which helps boost stock prices.

Days later on November 15, Royal Dutch Shell signed a $17 billion natural gas production deal with the Iraqi government. Shell will utilize the natural gas by-product from oil produced at the West Qurna Field, the Rumaila Field, and the Az Zubair Field, and transform it into a usable product. "Shell said it would sell the gas to electrical utilities in Iraq, but that it may also eventually export some," explained The New York Times.

Reuters further explained the specter of an LNG (liquefied natural gas) export deal in the Shell contract, writing,

Iraqi officials have said the project could include building an LNG export facility with a maximum capacity of 600 million cubic feet of gas per day, so long as Iraq's own gas needs are satisfied first

(Snip)

A summary of the official agreement obtained by Reuters after the initial signing in July lists a $4.4 billion LNG export unit, in addition to the $12.8 billion estimated cost of rehabilitating existing gas facilities and building new ones, but it does not say when the LNG plant might be built. 

U.S. Troops Leaving Iraq? Not quite

Critical observers understand full well that the U.S. won't be "leaving" Iraq anytime soon, of course. Instead, up to 3,000 troops will be moved, en masse, into neighboring Kuwait, on top of the already existing 29,000 troops stationed in the small Gulf state. Kuwait is home to seven U.S. military bases.

Furthermore, scores of "peacekeeping forces" will remain inside of Iraq itself. On top of that, untold number of "security forces," also known as private mercenaries, made infamous by Blackwater USA (now XE Services LLC), will also remain inside of Iraq. 

A Familiar Pattern: History Repeats Itself

Weeks ago, I uncovered a parallel oil war the United States launced in Uganda, the eastern African country that borders Lake Albert and the Albertine Basin, which sits on 2.5 million barrels of oil and is home to a key U.S. military base at Entebbe International Airport.

ExxonMobil is a key player looking to profit from Uganda's resource curse, and it likely is also teaming up with the powerful mercenary army Saracen International, which is co-owned by Blackwater founder Erik Prince and Salim Saleh, the brother of Uganda's President, Yoweri Museveni.

Saracen Interntional is a split-off of one of the first mercenary armies of the modern era, Executive Outcomes, which was owned by Tony Buckingham, who now owns Heritage Oil. Heritage, my article explains, along with ExxonMobil, has been working overtime together to secure oil production deals in the Albertine Basin, as seen through the lense of Wikileaks' U.S. State Department diplomatic cables. 

History, then, is repeating itself in Iraq, with the familiar ingredients, including oil, natural gas, mercenary forces, and key military bases, all in place. 

July 29 2011

19:14

The Many Problems With Tar Sands Pipelines

Note: This post is part of an ongoing series about North American pipelines. For an introduction and links to the wide-ranging coverage--from safety to legal issues to the business and economics to vulnerabilities--see this regularly-updated intro post.

On Monday, the House passed a bill that would force the Obama administration to make a final decision on TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL pipeline by November 1. The Keystone XL project (which regular DeSmogBlog readers should be familiar with) would funnel tar sands oil from Alberta's massive reserves down to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.

This isn't the place to discuss in too much depth the various and plentiful problems with Alberta tar sands itself -- from extraction to transportation to refining to combustion, it's the dirtiest oil on the planet. From a climate perspective, the Alberta tar sands contain enough carbon to lock the planet into climate chaos. In the words of NASA climatologist Jim Hansen, "if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over."

Because Keystone XL is so controversial, and because its construction could be such a tipping point in the climate fight, a broad and diverse coalition of scientists and activists are digging in their heels for a big fight, and planning a multi-week action at the White House. (Here's more on how to get involved.)

But since this is a post about pipelines, I'm going to focus on how tar sands pipelines are different than those that carry conventional crude, how they're much more prone to leaks and spills, and how those spills are particularly bad for the environment.

First, you need to understand what -- physically and chemically --  tar sands actually is. According to the Bureau of Land Managment, tar sands

...are a combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen, a heavy black viscous oil. Tar sands can be mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen, which is then refined into oil. The bitumen in tar sands cannot be pumped from the ground in its natural state; instead tar sand deposits are mined, usually using strip mining or open pit techniques, or the oil is extracted by underground heating with additional upgrading.

Once upon a time, the tar sands oil that flowed through North American pipelines was in the form of a synthetic crude. In other words, the sticky, viscous tar sands bitumin was upgraded to a more free-flowing form of crude before entering the pipes. But recently, the industry has found it cheaper and easier -- if not as safe or stable -- to dilute the bitumen with liquid natural gas, creating a substance called diluted bitumen, or "DilBit."

A joint report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Pipeline Safety Trust, the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club, released in February, spotlights the specific hazards of pipelines carrying this tar sands "DilBit."

The report describes DilBit as "a highly corrosive, acidic, and potentially unstable blend of thick raw bitumen and volatile natural gas liquid condensate."

Testifying this past Tuesday in front of the House Energy and Commerce's Energy and Power Subcommittee, NRDC expert Anthony Swift laid out the specific risk of this DilBit to the pipelines themselves:

By itself, bitumen is virtually solid at room temperature - to move it through a pipeline, producers must diluted it with light, highly volatile natural gas liquids. The thick, abrasive mixture, called diluted bitumen, is then pumped through pipelines at high pressure - generating enough friction to reach temperatures of 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Besides the heat, both Swift's testimony (PDF) and the joint pipeline report warn that DilBit has higher sulfur and chloride salt contents, both of which can lead to corrosion and cracking. There's also high levels of quartz, rutile, and pyrite particles, all of which are highly abrasive. The "Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks" report specifies that diluted bitumen:

  • is more acidic, thick, and sulfuric than conventional crude oil;
  • is up to seventry times more viscous than concentional crudes;
  • contains fifteen to twenty times higher acid concentrations than conventional crudes and five to ten times as much sulfur as conventional crudes, and that "the additional sulfur can lead to the weakening or embrittlement of pipelines."

What's more, due to an unfortunate quirk of DilBit's chemical composition, underground leaks can be much more difficult for monitors to detect. (If you're curious about the finer points of this chemistry, check out the joint Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks report (PDF).)

So enough with the unfortunate chemistry of DilBit; we also have some empirical evidence to look at. With even a relatively short history, there are already plenty of spills and leaks involving DilBit, many of which have been covered here on DeSmogBlog.

The Keystone I pipeline (the first in TransCanada's Keystone system that could eventually include Keystone XL) has infamously spilled 12 times in under a year of operation. (This despite assurances from the company that leaks would occur from Keystone only "once every seven years.")

A May breach at a North Dakota pumping station spewed over 500 barrels, like a geyser, into the air. Local landowner Bob Banderet noted the discrepancy between TransCanada's predictions and the reality: "They said this couldn't happen," Banderet said. "It's a once in a thousand year occurence, and here it is right in front of you."

There's more. In 2006, corrosion in Alberta's Rainbow pipeline caused over 343,000 gallons of oil to leak near Slave Lake, as Emma Pullman reported earlier here. Almost exactly a year ago this week, roughly 800,000 gallons of DilBut spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Western Michigan from a pipeline owned by the Canadian company Enbridge. In fact, in 2010, Enbridge's Lakehead system spilled over a dozen times, accounting for more than half of all crude spilled in the United States last year.

Even that recent, awful Exxon Mobil spill that spoiled the "last great river," the Yellowstone River, has ties to tar sands. Exxon Mobil officials admitted earlier this month that the Silvertip pipeline "routinely transported" tar sands oil. 

Finally, after the tar sands oil does inevitably spill, cleanup is a heck of a lot harder than normal crude spills. There's proof in Western Michigan. Reporter Kari Lydersen traveled to Marshall, Michigan to report on cleanup efforts a year later that Enbridge spill. Her report for OnEarth is sobering:

When that combination, known as DilBit, spilled out of the ruptured pipeline, the benzene and other chemicals in the mixture went airborne, forcing mandatory evacuations of surrounding homes (many of which were later bought by Enbridge because their owners couldn't safely return), while the thick, heavy bitumen sank into the water column and coated the river and lake bottom, mixing with sediment and suffocating bottom-dwelling plants, animals, and micro-organisms.

Surface skimmers and vacuums were no help, and a full year later, EPA officials and scientists are still working on a plan to remove submerged oil from about 200 acres of river and lake bottom. EPA officials had given Enbridge an August 31 deadline to get all the oil out, but they now say a full cleanup could take years.  "Where we thought we might be winding down our piece of the response, we're actually ramping back up," said Mark Durno, one of EPA's on-scene coordinators. "The submerged oil is a real story -- it's a real eye-opener. ... In larger spills we've dealt with before, we haven't seen nearly this footprint of submerged oil, if we've seen any at all."


Setting aside all the other threats and hazards posed by tar sands, there remains the basic, physical truth that contemporary pipelines simply cannot safely and securely transport its diluted bitumen form. And when the DilBit does spill, it is a much bigger problem than the already devastating impacts of spilled crude. 

Still, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers' numbers, American imports of DilBit have increased five fold over the past decade. If the Keystone XL project is approved and built, that number will only rise, and so will the number of spills, and the public costs of dealing with them.

MAPS OF TAR SANDS PIPELINES IN THE U.S.

Here is a map put together by NRDC of the existing and proposed tar sands DilBit pipelines:
NRDC Tar Sands DilBit Pipelines

For a closer look at the network of existing and proposed tar sands pipelines and refineries, download this map [PDF] put together by NoDirtyEnergy.org.


Photo credit: National Transportation Safety Board

July 23 2011

19:24

Exxon and Koch Pay ALEC for Access to State Legislators

Corporations are circumventing lobby laws by purchasing direct access to the nation’s lawmakers, according to a recent Bloomberg investigative report. Through membership fees paid to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington D.C. based policy institute, corporate entities like Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries are playing an active role in shaping state legislation.

According to Bloomberg, Koch and Exxon are among energy companies that stand to benefit from a cross-country energy policy that they helped write. Both companies paid a participation fee between $3,000 and $10,000 to sit at a legislative drafting table, among policy authors and elected officials.

ALEC charges membership fees of up to $35,000 and levies additional costs if companies want to join in policy creation sessions. The resulting draft “model legislation” is then adopted by member officials who support its passage into law.

The process amounts to a legal loophole, through which corporations can influence public procedure without registering the activity as lobbying.

According to Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, “this is just another hidden way for corporations to buy their way into the legislative process.”

The alliance between lawmakers and some of the country’s most powerful corporate entities has elected representatives escorting industry issues through the political process. Companies like Exxon and Koch, who are generous campaign supporters, have direct access to legislators behind ALEC’s closed doors.

“It's an end-run around transparency and disclosure laws,” says former Democratic representative Jeremy Kalin. As paying members of ALEC, corporations are in effect “paying for an opportunity to connect directly with legislators” he says.

According to Bloomberg, ALEC’s internal financial structure is a guarded mystery, as is its confidential list of corporate and legislative members. Because ALEC is a tax-exempt organization it is not required to disclose industry funds. 

Bloomberg’s investigation uncovered internal documents that demonstrate a heavy reliance on corporate financing. Memberships for lawmakers are a meager $100 for two years, while companies can pay up to $100,000 for high-profile ‘sponsor’ positions and up to $35,000 for a seat at the drafting table. Companies can also sponsor events, like the one Exxon will pay $45,000 to host next month, to educate member politicians about unconventional gas.

“We try to provide our views on legislation to anyone who will listen, including legislators and non-governmental organizations,” says Alan Jeffers, Exxon spokesman.

There are currently more than 2000 state lawmaker and 300 private sector members of ALEC. There are 80 former ALEC members who currently represent their states in Congress.  

Not surprisingly, the EPA’s proposed greenhouse gas reductions are emerging as a target for ALEC draft legislation, which is in part shaped by Exxon, Koch and other industry representatives. An ALEC report entitled “EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck: Strategies for State Legislators” encourages state officials to pressure Congress to stop the EPA “by any means necessary.” So far 13 states have implemented ALEC-style legislation.

ALEC spokesperson Raegan Weber says the organization is committed to supporting “good conservative policy” which, according to the company website, means the promotion of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual freedom.

The reduction of GHGs in the atmosphere, if managed by a federal agency like the EPA, would for ALEC amount to a corruption of these principles. “Our position on EPA regulations is that they’re usurping the legislative process,” says Weber, which is remarkably similar to how others would describe the activities of ALEC.

Image Credit: ThinkProgress

July 22 2011

12:15

Koch Brothers And ExxonMobil Join Forces To Fight RGGI With Copy-Paste State Legislation

As we’ve reported over and over again, the popular and successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and other regional climate agreements are under attack from polluters. Today, a bombshell report by Bloomberg News makes it undeniably clear who is leading the attack, and paints an ugly picture of collusion, influence, and state legislators deep in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry. 

The report shines a light on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which serves as a drafting board for industry-friendly state legislation and then subsequently as a sort of mixer for corporations and state politicians who are willing to accept financial favors to bring these copy-and-paste laws back to their home states.

Bloomberg reporter Alison Fitzpatrick 
writes:
The opportunity for corporations to become co-authors of state laws legally through ALEC covers a wide range of issues from energy to taxes to agriculture. The price for participation is an ALEC membership fee of as much as $25,000 -- and the few extra thousands to join one of the group’s legislative-writing task forces. Once the “model legislation” is complete, it’s up to ALEC’s legislator members to shepherd it into law.
Fitzpatrick calls out Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries as two companies whose handwriting (forget fingerprints) are all over the template legislation that forces states out of their regional climate agreements.
The process seems to work, at least to some degree. Within the past year, legistators in at least eight states have introduced provisions to leave their respective emissions reduction pacts. David Anderson, who writes the New Hampshire Primary 2012: Green blog about climate change and the 2012 election, first spotted the template. After doing some heroic digging, he found that in at least six of these states, the legislation introduced was literally copied-and-pasted from the template provided by ALEC. These states are Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington (all PDFs), and New Hampshire.

Anderson first spotted the language in the “findings” section of the New Hampshire bill. As he told Living on Earth: “It says ‘whereas there has been no credible economic analysis of the increasing cost of doing business in the state of,’ and then there’s a blank, so, in this case, they inserted the words, New Hampshire.”

When the bill was discussed in committee, Anderson reported this incredible exchange:

The bill’s lead sponsor, state Rep. Richard Barry (R), looked a bit like a dog caught with the family cat in its mouth when he was asked to explain the language at a public hearing; he nervously said that none of the bill’s sponsors had written this particular section, but stopped short of revealing ALEC as the source of the text. That didn’t sit well with Rep. James Garrity (R), chair of the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee, who later explained, “Our committee does not feel that editorials belong in laws.” The matter was resolved by dropping the ALEC text, and the amended bill went on to pass the House.

The language Anderson found in the New Hampshire bill is the same that Fitzpatrick identified (PDF) as the “eight-paragraph resolution,” that reads, in part, “there has been no credible economic analysis of the costs associated with carbon reduction mandates” and “a tremendous amount of economic growth would be sacrificed for a reduction in carbon emissions that would have no appreciable impact on global concentrations of carbon dioxide.”

Fitzpatrick reports that ALEC’s “model bills, which now total almost 1,000, are listed on its website, although their full texts can be called up only by members.” But the Center for Media and Democracy actually acquired the full texts of over 800 of the bills earlier this month, and posted them at ALECexposed.org.

ALEC has received at least $124,000 from the Exxon Mobil Foundation in dues and sponsorships, but that figure doesn’t include direct grants or gifts from the corporation itself. Greenpeace reveals that the Council has also received at least $408,000 from the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation since 1997.

This isn’t, of course, the first time we’ve seen Koch money directly influencing regional climate pacts.

Last month, Governor Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of RGGI, stripping the ten state agreement of one of its key cornerstone partners. Next door in New York, Americans for Prosperity, a group whose ties to the Koch brothers are well established, sued the state for its continued commitment to RGGI.
So far, none of the legislative or alternative efforts to pull out of regional commitments have had great traction. New Jersey’s case was unique, as Christie was able to use a controversial executive order, but there's still a lengthy regulatory process to fully extricate the state from the pact, and Democratic leaders in the state senate and assembly are introducing new legislation to strip the governor of his authority over RGGI.

Despite
widespread public support in the Garden State, Christie, who doesn’t deny that humans are causing global warming, claimed that RGGI was "a failure and an ineffective approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” This claim has been widely and summarily dismissed by scores of economists, environmentalists, and five governors who remain fully committed to RGGI. "Governor Christie is simply wrong when he claims that these efforts are a failure," said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

Americans for Prosperity celebrated Christie’s decision, even taking direct credit for it in a public press release: Americans for Prosperity Declares Victory over RGGI Cap & Trade!

The New Jersey chapter of AFP spent roughly $200,000 in the state on advertisements and other public efforts to fight RGGI, and plenty of analysts assume that Christie’s announcement was made to appease the notorious Tea Party funders as he sets his sights on a prospective White House run in 2012.

But while the New Jersey campaign was done in broad daylight, this Bloomberg News bombshell makes clear that Koch-funded organizations are still spearheading shadowy attempts to help states cut and run from their regional climate commitments.

With the prospects for nationwide carbon pricing at a ten-year low, regional agreements like RGGI, the Western Climate Initiative, and the Midwestern Greenhouse Gas Accord seem to hold the best hope for creating a carbon market and generating revenue to fund clean energy and energy efficiency projects. For this reason, no doubt, polluting interests like Koch Industries are sharpening their swords, and their legislation drafting pencils.

July 14 2011

17:01

David Legates Asked To Step Down As Delaware State Climatologist

David Legates announced this week that he was asked to step down as Delaware State Climatologist, a position he held for seven years. A long-time denier of the human contribution to climate change, Legates’ tenure as State Climatologist has always been a controversial one.

Back in 2007, because of his stance on climate, then-governor Ruth Ann Minner insisted that Legates stop using the formal title in any public statements on climate change policy. Minner wrote to Legates:
"Your views on climate change, as I understand them, are not aligned with those of my administration. In light of my position and due to the confusion surrounding your role with the state, I am directing you to offer any future statements on this or other public policy matters only on behalf of yourself or the University of Delaware, and not as state climatologist."
Legates maintained the title, however, which is designated by the Dean of the public university’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.
But this week, according to Legates himself, the Dean asked him to “step down.”
Legates sent the following note to his email list:
From: David R. Legates
Date: Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 10:48 AM
Subject:  New State Climatologist
Dear All,
  I want to notify you of a change in the Office of the Delaware State
Climatologist.  I have been asked by our Dean's office to step down and
the former Deputy Dean, Dr. Daniel J. Leathers, will be reassuming the
title of the Delaware State Climatologist.  He will be representing the
Office in Asheville and I hope you will welcome him.
  I thank you for the opportunity to serve as the Delaware State
Climatologist for the last seven years and to work alongside each of you.
Sincerely,
David R. Legates
The obvious question becomes: why now? Legates had endured as a denier in the role of official Delaware State Climatologist through seven years under Democratic governors who openly support action on climate change.

I placed multiple calls to both the University of Delaware and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), and was unable to find anyone willing or able to go on the record to explain why Legates was asked to step down from the position. 

The timing could indicate that it had something to do with Legates’ close ties to Wei Hock “Willie” Soon, another prominent denier who has recently found himself embroiled in controversy. Late last month, Greenpeace released documents acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, and these documents reveal deep financial ties between Soon and many oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil. The most startling takeaway from the Greenpeace report was that Soon has received more than $1 million from the oil and coal industries since 2001, and that “since 2002, every new grant he has received has been from either oil or coal interests.”

Soon, who is not a climatologist, but an astrophysicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has made a living over the past decade by taking an outspokenly skeptical stance to man made climate change. Soon’s name is also often linked to Legates’: the two co-authored the notorious and mightily-debunked “polar bear study” paper in 2007, the two are both listed as “ "experts" for the George C. Marshall Institute, a Washington, DC-based think-tank that has received over $700,000 in funding from ExxonMobil, and Soon has referred to Legates as a colleague during Congressional hearings.

Further, buried in Greenpeace’s report is an eye-opening email sent by Soon in 2003 that anticipates the release of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, and more than hints at an overt and calculated plot to discredit the report’s findings. The email was sent to five recipients, including a “Dave,” that Greenpeace analysts say is “most definitely Legates.”

Finally, Soon and Legates were the only two “experts” featured in an Idea Channel video that portrays current warming as part of a “natural solar cycle.”

Cindy Baxter of Greenpeace US’s Research Department believes that the University’s decision to replace Legates as Delaware State Climatologist likely involved his close ties to the controversial Soon. "When we were investigating Willie Soon, it became clear that David Legates was deeply involved in many of his fossil fuel industry-funded attempts to undermine climate science,” said Baxter. “It's heartening to see that the University of Delaware has finally seen the light."
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