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August 13 2012

14:45

On Our Radar: Paul Ryan's Environmental Record

Citing heavy snow in his home state of Wisconsin, Representative Paul Ryan said that climatologists distort their findings to mislead the public on global warming.

August 09 2012

22:37

Was Scott Walker Chosen to Headline Heartland Institute Gala Due to His Bradley Foundation Ties?

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker will keynote the Heartland Institute's 28th Anniversary Benefit Dinner this evening at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL

Walker recently won the Kochtopus-funded Americans for Prosperity George Washington Award. Now, two months after his recall election steamrolling of Democrat Tom Barrett, the climate change denying group famous for its Unabomber billboard will embrace Walker with much fanfare

Heartland, whose internal documents were published this past spring by DeSmogBlog, sings praises for Walker's union-busting agenda and his recent recall victory in promoting the event

This year’s keynote speaker, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, is the nation’s most influential and successful governor. Elected in 2010 to balance a budget that was billions of dollars in deficit without raising taxes, he did exactly that, winning the passionate support of taxpayers, business owners, and consumers across the state. After years of economic stagnation caused by high taxes and excessive regulation, Wisconsin is growing again.

To balance the state’s budget, Gov. Walker took on powerful public sector unions, reining in their collective bargaining privileges and requiring that public-sector workers start to contribute toward their retirement and health care benefits. Unions fought back, and after they failed to block legislation implementing Walker’s plan, they tried to recall him in a special election. On June 5, 2012, they failed, as Walker won reelection and a solid mandate to stay his course.

The trove of leaked Heartland documents exposed the Institute's current climate change denying agenda and revealed whose money supports this reality-denying agenda. But DeSmogBlog neglected to talk about the details of "Operation Angry Badger" in the documents, as at the time, we thought it was outside the scope of our mission.

Turns out, we were wrong.

The WI-Bradley Foundation-Heartland Institute Nexus

A significant chunk of the Heartland Exposed documents discussed the Heartland Institute's "Operation Angry Badger." These documents laid out the role Heartland would play in serving as a messaging machine for the forthcoming Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election. 

The Center for Media and Democracy's Brendan Fischer broke down the "Angry Badger" details (emphasis mine):

Leaked documents show that the Chicago-based Heartland Institute is planning to spend $612,000 supporting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

(Snip)

The leaked documents propose a $612,000 campaign to include print ads, mailers, web ads, and blog posts that would promote the "successes" of Wisconsin Act 10 and portray Wisconsin teachers as overpaid and schools as underperforming. Act 10 — also known as the "budget repair bill" — included Governor Walker's plan to curtail collective bargaining for public employees, which its proponents said would result in cost-savings for school districts and make it easier to fire bad teachers. 

Why was Heartland - a 'free-market' think tank most well-known for its role in peddling climate change denial - so invested in supporting Walker in the recall election? And given the controversy surrounding Heartland's Unabomber billboard failure, why is Walker - who is also set to keynote the Republican National Convention later this month - interested in associating with such an extreme group by serving as the keynote speaker at Heartland's Annual Dinner?

Just follow the money and the personnel for some indications. 

Milwaukee, WI-Based Bradley Foundation Gives Big Bucks to Heartland

The Milwaukee, WI-based conservative Bradley Foundation gave $648,000 to Heartland between 1986-2009, according to Media Matters.

The Foundation's President and CEO, Michael Grebe, served as Chairman for Walker's 2010 gubernatorial race, in which Walker handily dispatched his challenger, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett.

Grebe is also the Chairman of the Board of Philanthropy Roundtable, which, according to the Center for Media and Democracy's Sourcewatch, "was established by the Bradley Foundation to help facilitate conservative grantmaking." 

Bradley gave Philanthropy Roundable $2,585,000 between 1993-2009, according to Media Matters.

Compared to its close allies, the Koch Family Foundations - the funding epicenter of the Kochtopus empire and another Heartland funder - the Bradley Foundation has largely operated beneath the public's radar, particularly in the national media. The veil of secrecy Bradley enjoys was lifted when Wisconsin's biggest daily newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, published a lengthy investigation in November 2011, "From local roots, Bradley Foundation builds conservative empire." 

Walker's first meeting as Governor-Elect was not with the Koch Brothers, but with upper-level management of Bradley, explained the Sentinel:

Less than a week after being elected governor, Scott Walker and his wife met privately with one of the most powerful philanthropic forces behind America's conservative movement.

It wasn't the Koch brothers - the bogeymen for the American left.

On Nov. 8, 2010, the Walkers broke bread at the upscale Bacchus restaurant in the Cudahy Tower with the board and senior staff of the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

The Bradley Empire has actually doled out far more money to conservative causes (not including electoral efforts) in the past decade than has the Koch Empire.

"It receives a fraction of the attention given the billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch and the Scaife family," wrote the Sentinel. "But the Bradley Foundation is in a different league: From 2001 to 2009, it doled out nearly as much money as the seven Koch and Scaife foundations combined."

The Bradley Empire Uses Walker to Push Post-Recall Agenda

Foundation money doesn't grow on trees. It comes from various donors who share mutual ideological and fiduciary interests. In the case of the Bradley Empire, these interests are multi-tentacled, but the thread that ties the interests together is that they're always in the interest of corporations.

The $612,000 funneled to Heartland to work the "Operation Angry Badger" Walker recall effort could be looked at as a small down payment investment. Walker's victory now gives him the mandate to push the corporate agenda full-steam ahead - and push this agenda he has.

With the recall complete, and the national spotlight shifting away from Walker, he got to work creating numerous committees and working groups to service private interests ahead of the public interest, both now and long into the future. This is best highlighted in an ongoing investigative series by The Progressive magazine's Rebecca Kemble.

Two of the key working groups, The Council on Workforce Investment and the College and Workforce Readiness Council, "are working closely with Competitive Wisconsin, an alliance of politically connected businesses organized by Jim Wood, president of their family PR firm Wood Communications," according to Kemble's reporting.

Competitive Wisconsin, Kemble went onto to explain, launched something called the "Be Bold Campaign" in 2010. This campaign called for the creation of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), a public-private partnership that eventually was turned into reality as WI Act 7 (also known as Special Session SB 6 and Special Session AB 6) on February 9, 2011. This was merely two days before Walker announced he would be pushing the union-busting "Budget Repair Bill." 

Competitive Wisconsin spent 95% of its lobbying time in the first half of 2011 making the case for Act 7, according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board. This ran at a cost of $3,750 - or roughly three-fifths of the money ($4,875) it spent on lobbying for the half-year period. 

The WEDC, in turn, is currently putting together an influential study set to be released after Labor Day, according to a press release. "The $300,000 study is being funded by grants from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., the Bradley Foundation, and corporate donations," wrote The Wisconsin State Journal

The study is titled "Be Bold 2," a sequel to the study that created the WEDC to begin with.

A "Bold" Push For Jobs in Wisconsin's Growing Oil and Gas Industry?

"Be Bold 2" will be released under the auspices of Competitive Wisconsin, though it is co-funded by the WEDC and the Bradley Foundation. Competitive Wisconsin's "strategic counsel" is Jim Wood, President of Wood Communications Group

Wood Communications Group is a self-described "full-service public relations firm, providing problem solving and communication tools that work in the real world." Importantly, one of its clients is Murphy Oil Corporation

Murphy has a refinery in Superior, WI, which is refining tar sands crude that makes its way into the state via the Enbridge Alberta Clipper Pipeline, approved by the Obama Administration in August 2009.

In late July, the Alberta Clipper Pipeline spilled 1,200 barrels of oil near Grand Marsh, WI, according to Enbridge. Not even two weeks after the spill, Enbridge was given the go-ahead to restart pipeline operations

Wisconsin is also home to four Koch Industries tar sands refineries, owned by its subsidiary, Flint Hills Resources. Koch PAC donated $43,000 to the Walker campaign in 2010, while James Kowitz, Manager of the Murphy Oil Superior refinery gave Walker $800 prior to his 2010 victory.   

"Operation Angry Badger" A Wild Success

Of course the fossil fuel industry-funded Heartland Institute doesn't want Wisconsin citizens to think about how the tar sands crude that flows through the pipelines and refineries in their state causes climate change. 

After a close look at the tight ties that bind Walker to the Bradley Empire, its anti-union initiatives in Wisconsin, and Bradley's ties to the Heartland Institute, one can see that Walker's speaking gig at Heartland's 28th Annual Dinner actually makes perfect sense. 

And coming full circle, by the looks of it, "Operation Angry Badger" has been nothing short of a wild success for its special interest backers.

Photo CreditMegan McCormick | WikiMedia

August 07 2012

17:57

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 28 2012

13:00

The Real Train Wreck: ALEC and "Other ALECs" Attack EPA Regulations

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt to EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative "corporate bill mill" by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD**.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls "model bills." Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a "voice and a vote in shaping policy." In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become "models" that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.

 
ALEC Rock

ALEC, though, isn't the only group singing this tune.

As it turns out, one of the "Other ALECs," or a group that operates in a similar manner to ALEC, will be hosting its conference in the immediate aftermath of ALEC's conference: the Council of State Government's (CSG) regional offshoot, the Southern Leadership Conference (SLC).

Like ALEC, CSG produces its own "model bills," which it calls "Suggested State Legislation" (SSL). SSL is enacted via an "up or down" vote manner at CSG's national meetings. This process mirrors that of its cousin ALEC, with corporate lobbyists also able to vote in closed door meetings.

Some key differences between CSG and ALEC: the former is bipartisan in nature, while the latter is Republican Party-centric; CSG has a far larger budget, due to the fact that 43 percent of its funding comes from taxpayer contributions; and CSG is not explicitly ideological in nature because it was founded as a trade association for state legislators (not as a corporate front group like ALEC, although CSG is now heavily influenced by the same forces).

SLC's annual meeting will be held in Charleston, West Virginia from July 28-31.

TruthOut's ongoing "Other ALECs Exposed" series (written by yours truly) digs deep into the machinations of "Other ALEC"-like groups.

One of the key threads tying these two particular groups together is their agreement on derailing what they describe as "job-killing" EPA greenhouse gas emissions regulations. ALEC has referred to these sensible standards on multiple occassions as a "Regulatory Trainwreck."

ALEC, SLC and EPA "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolutions

ALEC's "Regulatory Trainwreck" Resolution

ALEC has two model bills on the books that call for EPA regulations to be eliminated: the State Regulatory Responsibility Act and the Resolution Opposing EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck. Essentially clones, the two bills passed nearly a decade apart from one another, the former in 2000, the latter in 2011.

ALEC's description of EPA regulations reads like the apocolypse is looming.

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has begun a war on the American standard of living," it wrote. "During the past couple of years, the Agency has undertaken the most expansive regulatory assault in history on the production and distribution of affordable and reliable energy…These regulations are causing the shutdown of power plants across the nation, forcing electricity generation off of coal, destroying jobs, raising energy costs, and decreasing reliability."  

Former CMD reporter Jill Richardson wrote in a July 2011 story that the concept behind the resolution originated at ALEC's December 2010 policy summit. Richardson explained,

The policy summit included a session led by Peter Glaser of Troutman Sanders LLP law firm in which Glaser, an attorney who represents electric utility, mining and other energy industry companies and associations on environmental regulation, specifically in the area of air quality and global climate change, told the crowd that "EPA's regulatory trainwreck" is "a term that's now in common use around town. I think everybody should become familiar with it." (See the video here.) Along with the presentations, ALEC published a report called "EPA's Regulatory Trainwreck: Strategies for State Legislators" and provided "Legislation to Consider" on its site, RegulatoryTrainwreck.com. For the public, they created the website StopTheTrainwreck.com.

The Resolution calls for the EPA to stop regulating greenhouse gases for the next two years as a "jobs creation" mechanism.

After the midterm election ransacking, in which the GOP won large majorities in state legislatures nationwide, it was off to the races for "Regulatory Train Wreck" resolutions to pass around the country, and pass they did. 

The "Regulatory Trainwreck" resolution, according to ALEC, has been introduced in an astounding 34 states, passing in 13, as of a June 2011 press release.

This assault conducted by ALEC and its corporate backers is merely the tip of the iceberg. ALEC itself boasts,

There are 27 groups of state and local officials that opposerecent EPA action, including tens of thousands of state legislators, utility commissioners, agricultural department officials, foresters, drinking water administrators, fish and wildlife agencies, solid waste management officials, state wetland managers, mayors, counties, and cities.

One of these 27 groups included CSG's Southern Leadership Conference.

SLC Adopts the "Regulatory Train Wreck" Resolution as its Own

On July 19, 2011, the SLC adopted the ALEC Regulatory Train Wreck resolution at its 65th Annual Meeting in Memphis, TN. The Resolution called for, among other things, to

  1. "Adopt legislation prohibiting the EPA from further regulating greenhouse gas emissions for the next 24 months, including, if necessary, defunding the EPA greenhouse gas regulatory activity;"
  2. "Impose a moratorium on the promulgation of any new air quality regulation by the EPA, including, if necessary,the defunding of the EPA air quality regulatory activities, except to address an imminent health or environmental emergency, for a period of at least 24 months;"  

In other words, this is a copycat of the ALEC Resolution. SLC, like ALEC, chocks it up to the false dichotomy of regulation vs. jobs, and regulations "killing jobs." As DeSmogBlog has written, the opposite is actually the case.

The resolution's opening paragraph is a case in point. It reads,

"The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed, or is in the process of proposing, numerous regulations regarding air quality and regulation of greenhouse gases that likely will have major effects on Southern state economies, impacting businesses, manufacturing industries and, in turn, job creation and U.S. competitiveness in world markets."

Lobbyists representing the Nuclear Energy Institute, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), Southern States Energy Board (a lobbying tour de force, which has a whole host of dirty energy clients in the oil, gas, and nuclear power sectors), Piedmont Natural Gas, Spectra Energy, and Southern Company were all in attendance to vote on this resolution. 

Dirty energy sponsors of the 2011 SLC meeting included the likes of Spectra, General Electric, ACCCE, Chevron, Honeywell, Piedmont Natural Gas, BP, Southern Company, and Atmos Energy, to name several.

If adopted at a federal level, this resolution would, of course, make all of these companies a hefty fortune.  

ALEC's Bifurcated Approach: Strip Federal Regs, Attack Local Democracy

Oil, gas, nuclear and utility corporations that fund ALEC and groups like CSG would like nothing more than to see EPA regulations disintegrate into thin air.

Part one of DeSmog's investigation on ALEC's dirty energy agenda showed that, along with pushing for the elimination of EPA regulations, it has also succeeded in promulgating legislation that would eliminate local democracy as we know it, including altering key standards such as zoning rights - a Big Business giveaway of epic proportions.

This would mean only extremely underfunded and understaffed state regulatory agencies like the New York Department of Environmental Conservation would have any oversight on environmental regulatory issues. 

If anything is clear, it's this: statehouses have become one of Big Business' favorite domiciles for pushing its "Corporate Playbook." 

Image CreditLane V. Erickson ShutterStock

(**Full Disclosure: Steve Horn is a former employee of CMD and worked on the ALECExposed project)

March 16 2012

11:55

On Our Radar: Focus Returns to Fuel Efficiency

Buyers of hybrids and diesels are advised to make sure that they'll drive them long enough to cover the models' price premium.

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

March 03 2012

00:50

U.S. Chamber Hits The Road To Promote "Oily" Highway Transportation Bill

A bitter fight has erupted in Washington, D.C. in recent weeks surrounding the fate of a much-needed transportation and infrastructure bill. Congressional Democrats wanted to pass a bill that would fund projects to help rebuild roads and bridges, but Republicans were against the idea.

So, in an attempt to get something more tangible out of the legislation, Congressional Republicans loaded the bill down with dozens of handouts to the oil industry, including immediate approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and expanded access to U.S. lands for oil exploration. The amendments would also take national gas tax money away from public transportation projects, and reduce the amount of federal contributions to public employee pensions – two actions that will have devastating effects on middle class America. And with the fight bringing the discussion on the legislation to a halt, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce took it upon themselves to hit the road and sell the bill to the American public.

From the U.S. Chamber:

The business group will be hosting breakfasts, lunches and policy roundtables with local chambers and business associations this week in 12 different cities in Ohio, Idaho, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama and Louisiana.

Janet Kavinoky, the Chamber’s executive director of transportation and infrastructure, will be on the road trip, along with Alex Herrgott, one of the business group’s transportation lobbyists.

“The idea is to get out, give people a good sense what the bill is and get them talking to their members of Congress and have them get the bill done,” Kavinoky said. “We want Congress to feel like it needs to come back to Washington and get the bill done and put it to bed.”

read more

January 23 2012

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

January 19 2012

18:51

January 17 2012

23:53

Permission Denied: Bulgaria Says "No" To Chevron's Exploratory Fracking

No kinky stuff, Bulgaria declared as it limited Chevron in using only conventional drilling techniques and not hydraulic fracturing. The Bulgarian government voted to prohibit Chevron from using fracking to search for natural gas in the northeast section of the country. The main driver for the decision was public concern about contaminating the drinking water supply and land with unknown chemicals and leaking gas (sound familiar?).

The country asked Chevron in June to conduct an exploratory test within its borders for its potential for gas extraction. Since then, citizens have voiced their concern over allowing fracking because of the dangers of earthquakes and public health risks such as cancer and other ailments experienced by other communities impacted by fracking. This past Saturday (January 14th), people gathered to protest the extreme extraction method and convinced the government to conduct an Environmental Impact Study prior to implementing the techniques.

Tomorrow, the government will take the issue one step further and vote on whether to permanently prohibit fracking both in the country and its designated territorial waters in the Black Sea.

Photo by Tsvetelina Beloutova

15:30

January 04 2012

16:09
01:59

What We Didn’t Learn From The Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Almost 20 months have passed since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and spewed millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. And to this day, the lessons we should have learned from that disaster remain completely ignored.

In spite of an intense battle involving a moratorium on deep water oil drilling after the explosion, the Obama administration was out-maneuvered on the issue by the powerful oil industry, losing court battles as well as facing three separate bills in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to overturn the drilling moratorium. (An interesting side-note about the court battle is that the judge who overturned the ban, Martin Feldman, actually owned stock in Transocean at the time of his decision.)

With oil still washing ashore at the time of the first proposed moratorium, right wing bloggers helped muddy the waters by claiming that the moratorium was devastating Gulf economies. The conservative website Free Republic even posted a video and story about the “Victims of the Obama Drilling Moratorium,” that turned oil companies into the victims as local fishermen and tourist-centered businesses were struggling to make ends meet. Their analysis of the real “victims” was based on “investigations” by oil-funded groups like The Heritage Foundation and the Institute for Energy Research. A commenter on that video had the audacity to claim, “Obama just killed Louisiana more than Katrina.”

But the right wing attacks on the moratorium paid off, and today the deepwater offshore oil industry is once again thriving in the Gulf of Mexico.


From The Associated Press, via Huffington Post:

Across the Gulf, energy companies are probing dozens of new deepwater fields thanks to high oil prices and technological advances that finally make it possible to tap them.

The newfound oil will not do much to lower global oil prices. But together with increased production from onshore U.S. fields and slowing domestic demand for gasoline, it could help reduce U.S. oil imports by more than half over the next decade.

Eighteen months ago, such a flurry of activity in the Gulf seemed unlikely. The Obama administration halted drilling and stopped issuing new permits after the explosion of a BP well killed 11 workers and caused the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

But the drilling moratorium was eventually lifted and the Obama administration issued the first new drilling permit in March. Now the Gulf is humming again and oil executives describe it as the world's best place to drill.

And the number of oil rigs is only expected to climb in the next few months, even though the oil that is recovered is doing next to nothing to lower energy prices:

By early 2012, there will be 40 deepwater rigs in the Gulf, up from 37 before the BP spill, according to Cinnamon Odell of ODS-Petrodata. BP received its first permit to drill in late October.

The Gulf produces an average of 1.5 million barrels of oil per day, according to Wood Mackenzie. That's 27 percent of U.S. output and 8 percent of U.S. demand.

As the BP disaster made clear, drilling in deep water presents difficulties and dangers. Last month a Chevron well in the deep waters off of Brazil ruptured and spilled 2,400 barrels of oil into the Atlantic after Chevron underestimated the pressure of the oil field it was tapping.

So we’ve established that deepwater offshore drilling is dirty, dangerous, and does little to help meet oil demand. But the dirty energy industry has money – lots of it – and they don’t mind throwing their weight around in American politics to achieve their goals.

But there is a small glimmer of hope to kick off the new year: The federal government is finally gearing up to file criminal charges against BP for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Agence France-Presse by way of RawStory laid it out as follows:

US prosecutors are readying criminal charges against British oil giant BP employees over the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident that led to the catastrophic Gulf oil spill, The Wall Street Journal reported online.

The charges if brought and prosecuted by the US Justice Department would be the first criminal charges over the disaster.

Citing sources close to the matter, the Journal said the prosecutors are focusing on US-based BP engineers and at least one supervisor who they say may have provided false information to regulators on the risks of deep water drilling in the Gulf.

Felony charges for providing false information in federal documents may be made public early next year, said the Journal.

We have documented in the past the ways in which federal regulators allowed the oil companies to run roughshod over laws, and these potential federal charges are a bit of fresh air for those of us who live on the coast.

While the criminal charges are needed, it is unlikely that they will hinder the expansion of oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. As long as the oil industry’s tentacles reach through the corridors of Washington, they will be able to make their own rules when it comes to drilling.

Reposted by02mydafsoup-01bp-ads

December 14 2011

17:46

On Our Radar: A Serial Bird's-Egg Thief

A Briton acknowledges possessing 652 "ordinary" wild bird eggs, as well as those from birds like red kites, peregrine falcons, redwings and merlins. He also confesses to taking 12 avocet, 8 osprey and 7 golden eagle eggs.

December 02 2011

22:55

Musings of a Malcontent: What’s 157,000 gallons of oil a day between friends?


Musings of a Malcontent: Environmental Irony in an Imperfect (but humorous?) World“Musings of a Malcontent” is a weekly op-ed by GlobalWarmingisReal contributor Carlyle Coash

I love the Internet.

Well to be more precise, I love the freedom of the Internet.

The fact that all kinds of amazing information is right there – assuming you can find it among the spam and porn – to help shape our understanding of what is actually going on in the world. The main challenge of course is that you have to be willing to search for it – especially when it comes to issues regarding the environment. There are many items that get buried or are underreported because….well….they are problematic. Someone or some group (company, government, church) just feels the general public can’t handle the truth – to borrow from Jack Nicholson.

We can be so sensitive about these things after all.

Like the 157,000 gallons of oil that was spilling every day into the Atlantic Ocean from the Chevron Campos Oil field off the coast of Brazil. You know, the one that is still leaking oil? You know, the one that is forming a lovely oil slick that can be seen by satellites from space? You know, the one that has been leaking since November 8th?

You know?

You’ve heard about I’m sure. Look – I will go right now and look up the top stories on Yahoo. It’ll be there. Let’s see.

  • Wayne Gretzky’s daughter tweets semi-naked photos of herself. Ok.
  • Star Kate Hudson sizzles in cutout dress. Great.
  • Old Navy flubs college T-shirts – huh that’s funny Victoria’s Secret did that last week.
  • Pamela Anderson is letting people sleep at her house for $20,000 a week through VRBO. Nice. It has a wigwam in the back yard. Cool. That is so progressive of her. She’s traveling so much these days she thought – why not? That is so great of her, letting us touch her fame like that. She is so much more than just her role on Baywatch and her saucy marriage to Tommy Lee.

I’m sorry, what was I looking for?

Oh yea. Oil spill. Brazil. Chevron.

Chevron. Oil spill.

Haven’t they done that already this year? There have been so many spills this year it is hard to keep track. Apparently the folks at Chevron were very upset this week because the Brazilian government is not allowing them to drill anymore and is planning to sue them for 80 million. In a Bloomberg news item on the 29th the head of operations in Latin America and Africa for Chevron, Ali Moshri, said,

“We’re hoping it won’t last very long, because I’m not quite sure why it was suspended in the first place… Not even one drop has reached the beach, a reaction of this magnitude is really surprising.”

Well how scientific of you Ali. If it hasn’t reached the beach, it must not be a problem.

Beach = bad.

Floating free in the ocean for miles and miles = excellent.

The ocean and the beach are not connected at all so we should be good. I mean there are fish out there that we go catch and eat. Could be an issue.  Also there is all the sea life that might swim into the oil slick not realizing it is there. I guess that might suck for them. Still – white sandy beach in Brazil. That is a green light in my opinion to start drillin’ and spillin’. Until I am knee deep in crude as I snorkel off the beach in Brazil everything is primo!

I want a job like his that pays me a lot of money to talk out of my butt. Come to think of it, you’re right Ali. What is all the fuss about? The Atlantic was in desperate need of an oil slick that can be seen from space. I have heard that the market shares are down this year for the Atlantic in general. It is just not getting the ratings it used to. I mean you never see the Atlantic on the cover of People anymore – slumming around with Ashton Kutcher punking celebrities. Sure at one time it was the ocean that took out the Titanic –but what has it done lately? Nothing!

Lazy Atlantic!

An oil slick is the perfect solution. Stop whining and let us drill a little more. I mean Chevron says there are only infrequent droplets coming out – or 200 to 330 barrels a day. Let’s not argue over the particulars. What’s a few barrels more or less. God – everyone is such a bunch of crybabies!

Have I made my point?

So as I was saying before I had a seizure and started to rant – I love the Internet.

Why?

Because it lets a small but interesting website – SkyTruth – be created and accessed by the world. What is SkyTruth? In a sentence it is a website that “promotes environmental awareness and protection with remote sensing and digital mapping technology”. Sounds good to me. It is just one example of the kind of advocacy we need out there. Normally I try not to promote like this – but frankly we need all the help we can get.

And as for Chevron – it is looking like it might continue to be a rocky year for them. It looks like they will be paying $900,000 to a town in Maine for 140,000 gallons of oil that leaked into the Penobscot River from the 1950’s to the 1980’s.

Not sure what the big deal is there.

After all, the leak was just some infrequent drops.

November 18 2011

03:22

Brazilian Officials Investigating Chevron Oil Spill Off Coast

Law enforcement agencies in Brazil announced today that they would begin investigating the cause of an oil spill that occurred off the coast. Chevron's Frade Well off the coast of Brazil has been leaking for more than a week. From the start, Chevron tried to downplay the significance of the spill, suggesting it had natural causes, but Brazilian officials are now saying that Chevron did, in fact, cause an oil spill.

Mike G at The Understory lays out the story:

Brazil’s Federal Police agency has announced that it is investigating the spill, and said in a statement that those responsible could be facing up to 5 years in prison…After Chevron tried to blame it on natural seepage for a week, officials have confirmed that the oil spill off the Brazilian coast is in fact the result of Chevron’s operations at its Frade well.

Echoing last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster and BP’s defensive and often misleading public communications during that disaster, Chevron has continuously downplayed and underestimated the amount of oil that has leaked out of their well (which, according to the company, was sealed today). The oil giant claims that the amount of oil leaked out of the Frade well was somewhere between 400 and 650 barrels of oil, with only about 65 barrels worth of oil remaining on the surface of the water after a week of natural dissipation and the application of chemical dispersants.

However, independent analyses performed by organizations tell a different story.

From The Washington Post:

SkyTruth, a nonprofit group that uses satellite imagery to detect environmental problems, said on its website the oil spill extended 918 square miles (2,379 square kilometers) and that the spill rate as of Tuesday was up to at least 3,738 barrels per day.

Chevron said in its statement that it “continues to fully inform and work with Brazilian government agencies and industry partners on all aspects of this matter.”

“If Chevron is not doing what it should (to contain the spill) it will be severely punished,” Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao said Thursday.

In another eerie similarity to the BP Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, the contractor of Chevron’s Frade well was Transocean, the company that actually owned the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.

Unlike the “justice” being served in America to BP and the other companies involved in last year’s oil disaster, Chevron executives in Brazil could actually face prison time for their disaster, as Mike G mentions in his piece.

This would be a tremendous precedent to set for other oil companies who have run roughshod over communities and the environment across the globe without any remorse or true accountability.

May 26 2011

16:27

February 18 2011

22:39

Chevron in Ecuador; GOP Aims to Kill EPA


Chevron's attempt at a clean public image is juxtaposed with an $8 billion judgement from an Ecuadorian court for decades of environmental damage in the AmazonThe Weekly Mulch from the Media Consortium
By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
(reposted with permission)

A Bolivian judge ordered Chevron this week to pay $8.6 billion in damages for polluting the Amazon rainforest from 1964 until 1990. The payout is the second largest ever in an environmental case, with only the damages BP agreed to pay in the wake of last summer’s Deepwater Horizon spill being higher.

Environmental lawyers and advocates hailed the case as a landmark victory, but as Rebecca Tarbotton reports at AlterNet, Chevron is still planning to fight the case.

“In fact, the oil giant has repeatedly refused to pay for a clean up even if ordered to by the court,” she writes. “In one chilling statement, Charles A. James, Chevron’s vice president and general counsel, told law students at UC Berkeley that Chevron would fight ‘until hell freezes over, and then skate on the ice.’”

The Cost of Doing Business

Chevron can continue to fight the case because it’s cheaper for them to fund their lawyers than to cough up billions. Like so many environmental issues, this one comes down to money, which environmentally destructive corporations always seem to have and activists, regulators, and victims simply don’t.

In Washington, the newly empowered Republican Party is doing its darndest to make sure that remains the case. It’s budget season, and the Environmental Protection Agency is one of the prime targets for cutting in Republicans’ budget proposals. Kate Sheppard reports at Mother Jones that House Republicans are not only trying to take away $3 billion from the agency, but also are pushing to bar the EPA from regulating carbon or other greenhouse gasses. Putting this in context, Sheppard writes:

The National Wildlife Federation says the cuts amount to a “sneak attack” on existing environmental laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, because they would make it basically impossible for the EPA to do its job. The huge cut—the biggest in 30 years—”would jeopardize the water we drink and air we breathe, endangering the health and well-being of all Americans,” Gene Karpinski, the president of the League of Conservation Voters, said Monday.

The need for green

But environmentalists have their backers, too. At Grist, Bill McKibben, the author and climate activist who co-founded the climate group 350.org, has an interesting look at how the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign, led by Bruce Nilles, banded together with other environmental activists to successfully shut down proposals for coal-fired power plants across the country. One of the keys, of course, was money:

A consortium of foundations led by the Rockefeller Family Fund helped provide not only resources for the fight but crucial coordination. By the summer of 2005, RFF’s Larry Shapiro, David Wooley from The Energy Foundation, Nilles, and others formed a loosely organized “coal cadre.”

The coordination was crucial not only for the advocacy groups involved, which each have different strengths and geographical bases, but for the money men as well:

“I first went to Florida in 2005 to meet with several groups fighting coal plants,” said Shapiro. “I thought I would figure out who we could give $50,000 to. After my trip, I realized it wasn’t a $50,000 project — it was a million-dollar project. Over time, the Energy Foundation and others got into the game, so we ended up with some real money.”

In the end, McKibben reports, RFF gathered together, from its own pockets and from other foundations, $2.8 million.

Windfall

On top of the type of advocacy work that McKibben details, there’s another reason why more communities and companies are moving away from coal-fired power plants: they have a choice. Plants fueled with natural gas are a popular alternative, but as Gina Marie Cheeseman writes at Care2, in some areas, onshore wind power can compete with coal on costs.

“In some areas of the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and Sweden, the cost of wind power ($68 per megawatt hour) generated electricity is competitive with coal-fired power ($67 a megawatt hour),” Cheeseman writes. Wind power is also, she notes, competitive with natural gas, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Close to home

These sort of adjustments make it easier for consumers to make sustainable choices. And in the end, personal choices do impact the amount of carbon humanity is spewing into the atmosphere. As two recent European studies showed, men make choices that generally produce more carbon emissions than women, Julio Godoy reported for Inter Press Service.

One study focused on France, the other on Germany, Greece, Norway, and Sweden. The second study, conducted by researchers at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, found that men ate more meat, drank more processed beverages, and drove more frequently and for longer distances. Annika Carlsson-Kanyama, one of the study’s authors, has argued that their results apply more broadly, too.

“These differences are not specific to the four countries studied, but are generalised across the European Union and have little to do with the different professional activities of men and women,” she told Godoy.

——————–

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

February 17 2011

23:34

Chevron in Ecuador: Not the Image Projected in We Agree Campaign


The recent $8 billion judgement from an Ecuadorian court against Chevron for environmental damage in the Amazon stands in stark contrast to the oil giant’s latest ad campaign, called We Agree.

For a closer look at the campaign and why it is greenwash at its best (or worse) read my latest post on TheGreenWashingBlog.com

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