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January 13 2012


December 29 2011


The Pipe: The Story of Struggle and Controversy in Rossport Ireland

The Pipe documentary filmFor years the small fishing and farming community of Rossport Ireland has been the center of a controversial struggle between the rights of its inhabitants and the power of large-scale fossil energy development.

The recently released documentary “The Pipe” tells the story of how this small community took on Shell Oil and the Irish State in its fight to preserve a community and a way of life.

Visit our sister site TheGreenWashingBlog for more details and to watch a trailer of this award-winning documentary.

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December 22 2011


November 18 2011


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


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


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. 

October 24 2011


On Our Radar: A Quake in Turkey

The 7.2-magnitude quake had the greatest effect on Ercis, a town of around 75,000, where an estimated 80 multistory buildings collapsed.

August 26 2011


Musings of a Malcontent: Shell Oil is AWESOME!

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

Dudes and dudettes! I know a few weeks ago I said that Exxon rocks, but seriously –

Shell Oil is totally awesome!

They are like…totally the best when it comes to nearly averting huge oil spills. Man, they rock so much they make Exxon’s rocking look like a Yanni concert. Totally dude! Right?

I have lived in California too long. To all, my deepest regrets.

The Valley just takes me over sometimes.

As you may know, one of Shell’s massive drilling sites in the North Atlantic leaked about 2,000 gallons of oil into the sea last week. Woops. I hate when that happens. You’re minding your own business drilling into the seabed and you totally forget to check to make sure no pipes are leaking.

I could barely get into my bathroom the last time I let that happen.

A recent article in the Daily Telegraph stated that Shell was upset by the leak as it has been trying to position itself as the most reliable and trustworthy oil company after BP’s spill earlier this year.

“Solid and dependable” were the exact words.

Huh? Can a comparison even be made? Is there even a position to be jockeyed for as most dependable oil company of the year? We’re the best! We only spilled 2,000 barrels! Only 10 seabirds and a handful of sea life have met their end due to our actions – not like those miscreants over at BP. And don’t get me started on Conoco! I won’t even let them baby-sit anymore.

It’s like the Emperor saying he is more reliable than Darth Vader because at least he shows his face. Or Stalin saying he was more dependable than Hitler because he managed not to get himself shot in a ditch outside his bunker. Or that Charlie Sheen is trustworthier than Paris Hilton.

(There was actually a poll done there. Yes – we will deserve everything coming to us)

Do these companies really think they can outshine each other? Hmm – given all the recent oil slicks appearing in the Gulf, perhaps I should pick a different word. No – that works really. They might succeed in their efforts given the absolute lack of coverage of this particular event. By the way, Lindsey Lohan was seen wearing the same dress as Pippa Middleton did at the Royal Wedding.

Who are they fooling? Us, I am afraid. Us – big time.

I should have more compassion. Shell has been having such a tough year so far. The death of a maintenance worker, a series of dangerous gas leaks, equipment collapsing off a platform into the sea. Oh yeah – and a 15,000 hour backlog on repairs.

15,000 hours?

I’m sure there is nothing to worry about there.

Is there anyone paying attention to that? Any oversight? Any fines each day the repairs remain undone? I have SWAT teams descending on my home when I am two days late with my Student Loan payment, but by all means let’s give them their 15,000 hours. It won’t cost us anything.

Oversight is so overrated. They’re fine on their own.


Apparently the Shell Brent Field is the largest in the North Sea, with four platforms. In July the Charlie platform was closed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) because of an “uncontrolled release of flammable substances” – not the first time such a thing has happened.

I bet the folks at Burning Man would know exactly how to handle that situation.

The HSE described ignition of gas at the platform as “almost inevitable” – with the potential for a catastrophe. Yep, they have a lot to be proud of. In their quest to become the most outstanding of oil companies they have triumphed. They truly have come out front in the battle of most awesomest, awake, earth healing, puppy conscious, gracious, resplendent and massive oil company in the world.

Dare I say the Universe? Yes, I dare it!

By the way, did I mention they have permission to drill in the Arctic?

It just keeps getting better.

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August 05 2011


U.N. Report On Niger Delta Calls For Billion Dollar Shell Oil Spill Clean-Up Fund

A new United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report [pdf] discussing the environmental destruction in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta wetlands calls out Shell, and says that the contamination warrants emergency action and an initial $1 billion clean-up fund to pay for a sweeping environmental restoration which may take 30 years to complete.

According to the UNEP, this is the most detailed scientific study to date on any part of the Niger Delta. The survey team spent 14 months completing the study which involved site visits to more than 200 locations, a survey of 122 km of pipeline, reviews of more than 5,000 medical records and public meetings with more than 23,000 locals.

The Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta is filled with creeks, swamps, waterways and huge reserves of oil which have enabled Nigeria to become the world’s eighth largest oil exporter. Decades of exploitation by national and international corporations like Shell, however, have destroyed the region’s land and freshwater supplies, and have left residents in poverty.

In one community in western Ogoniland, at Nisisioken Ogale, residents are drinking water contaminated with benzene (a carcinogen) at levels over 900 times above World Health Organization guidelines. In at least 10 out of the 15 sites with poisoned water which Shell subsidiaries said had been cleaned, the public health risk is still deemed to be serious.

A full environmental restoration of contaminated drinking water, land, creeks and damaged ecosystems [pdf] “could prove to be the world’s most wide-ranging and long term oil clean-up exercise ever undertaken.”

Achim Steiner, U.N. Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, stated:

“The oil industry has been a key sector of the Nigerian economy for over 50 years, but many Nigerians have paid a high price, as this assessment underlines.”

“It is UNEP’s hope that the findings can break the decades of deadlock in the region and provide the foundation upon which trust can be built and action undertaken to remedy the multiple health and sustainable development issues facing people in Ogoniland. In addition it offers a blueprint for how the oil industry—and public regulatory authorities-- might operate more responsibly in Africa and beyond at a time of increasing production and exploration across many parts of the Continent.”

Even though Shell has not operated in the Ogoniland since 1993, the report identifies the lackluster stewardship of Shell and its subsidiaries stating:

Control and maintenance of oilfield infrastructure in Ogoniland has been and remains inadequate: the Shell Petroleum Development Company’s own procedures have not been applied, creating public health and safety issues.

The oil giant was forced to leave the region after writer Ken Saro-Wiwa (hung by the government in 1995) led a campaign against the corporation for its environmentally destructive practices. The pipelines and other infrastructure, however, remain in place and continue to cause spills and suffer from sabotage attacks.

Despite its vast oil resources, the Niger Delta region suffers from violence, severe poverty and devastation from oil spills caused by faulty infrastructure, theft and sabotage.

The UNEP findings also support the claims of Bodo fishing communities in the Ogoniland region who are taking Shell to court in Britain for poisoning their waters and ruining their livelihoods. Shell officials have agreed to take responsibility for two spills in 2008 and 2009. 

Taking responsibility for spills is out of the ordinary for Shell, which has frequently avoided liability by blaming sabotage and maintaining that under Nigerian law, compensation is not paid when damages are caused by sabotage. Such claims led Friends of the Earth and Amnesty International to submit a joint claim to Dutch officials at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, criticizing Shell for “nontransparent, inconsistent and misleading figures” by claiming that some 98 percent of spills are caused by sabotage [Shell countered saying the figure was more like 70 percent].

The director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria and Chair of Friends of the Earth International, Nnimmo Bassey, stated earlier this year that:

"Several studies have placed the bulk of the blame for oil spills in the Niger Delta on the doorsteps of the oil companies, particularly Shell."

The new report combined with the Bodo lawsuit means that Shell, national oil companies and other oil prospectors are now on notice to clean up their operations or face the consequences.

Download the executive summary [EN - pdf] and/or full UNEP Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland report [pdf].

Photo Credit: flickr

August 04 2011


Shell Agrees To Pay Nigerians For 2008 and 2009 Oil Spills

In a historic move, oil giant Shell has agreed to take responsibility and to compensate Bodo fishing communities in the Ogoniland region of the Niger Delta wetlands after their homes and livelihoods were ravaged by destructive oil spills in 2008 and 2009.

The case is also significant due to the fact that Shell will face the music at home, i.e. in a British court rather than one in Nigeria. Environmental advocates have long called for western oil companies to face their claimants on home soil in order to ensure more media coverage and a larger payout to the affected residents.

Martyn Day, speaking for the 69,000 Bodo, said they are seeking "adequate compensation immediately." This will likely amount to hundreds of millions of dollars in damages paid to people living in the Niger Delta, a region severely affected by poverty. Shell will likely also face additional litigation in the future.

Day explains:

"This is one of the most devastating oil spills the world has ever seen and yet it had gone almost unnoticed until we received instructions to bring about a claim against Shell in this country [UK]."

"The Bodo people are a fishing community surrounded by water. What was the source of their livelihood now cannot sustain even the smallest of fish. The spills have caused severe poverty amongst the community.”

"Marine life has been devastated within the 2,000 hectares of the creek and the mangroves have been, without exception, destroyed."

Until now, Shell has claimed that less than 40,000 gallons of oil were released into the environment due to the spills. This is no longer the situation.

The lawyers for the Bodo, Leigh Day & Co., claim that the quantity of oil released from the two spills is equivalent to approximately 20 percent of the amount which leaked into the Gulf of Mexico after BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster. Some experts even believe that the spills could be as large as the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster off the coast of Alaska which dumped more than 10 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound.

Three sets of claims have been submitted in the case:

(1) for at least $100 million (£61 million) in order to clean up the devastated area;

(2) for damages to the community land;

(3) for losses suffered by individual families.

Finally, at least some Nigerians will be compensated for these disastrous oil spills, which have become all too commonplace. According to the Nigerian government, more than 7,000 spills occurred between 1970 and 2000. It is believed that oil spills are taking place at a rate of 300 every year.

According to a joint report from Friends of the Earth and Amnesty International, Shell has tried to avoid liability for five decades worth of oil spilled (some 546 million gallons) into the Niger Delta (nearly 11 million gallons a year).

In 2009, Nigeria accounted for around 9 percent of Shell’s oil production.

This is a big victory for Bodo Nigerians because taking the company to court in Britain means that Shell will not be able to avoid paying, unlike Chevron’s efforts to avoid $8 billion in compensation when an Ecuadorian court found them liable for spills in that country earlier this year.

July 21 2011


Shell Forced to Retract "Misleading" Fracking Adverts in South Africa

The gas industry has finally received the slap on the hand it deserves for parroting the outdated refrain: “there are no instances of documented water contamination from hydraulic fracturing.” In South Africa, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ordered oil and gas giant Shell to withdraw claims about shale gas drilling, after the authority found the company guilty of propagating misleading information in several newspapers.

The Karoo region of South Africa has become an international target for unconventional gas producers since its vast shale gas deposits were discovered in recent years. The rush to drill created a wave of public concern, after reports of fracking disasters, including water contamination, well blow-outs and explosions, have become commonplace across America. The government has called for a delay in granting drilling permits until a full-scale study is completed to address mounting concerns.

Looking to sway public opinion, Shell published numerous full-page public relations adverts in local newspapers, claiming that hydraulic fracturing is used in 90% of gas wells and has never caused water contamination.

The ASA ruled that numerous aspects of the Shell adverts are “unsubstantiated and misleading.” The claims made by Shell are “not adequately substantiated,” according to the authority, and are “in contravention” of advertising codes in South Africa, which requires such information to have “unequivocal, independent verification.”

The ASA condemned Shell for their position on water contamination, saying that the company was clearly portraying a biased perspective and should have taken to time to assess a broader spectrum of literature on the topic.

This is not the first time Shell has had to pull an advertisement from a major news source. In 2008 the British advertising authority forced the company to withdraw an advert boasting their new “sustainable” energy developments in the Canadian tar sands

The South African citizen organization Treasure the Karoo Action Group, who made the official complaint to the ASA, welcomed the ruling

Bonang Mohale, Shell South Africa chair said they are disappointed with the ruling, adding “the purpose of the advert was to provide information directly to the public to enable them to properly assess the nature of the proposed shale gas exploration in the Karoo, as well as the accompanying technology of hydraulic fracturing.”

Shell, along with others from the gas industry, has been pushing to perform preproduction fracking despite the moratorium. Test fracking, they say, is necessary to determine where and how to drill, and how much to invest.

Treasure the Karoo chairperson Jonathan Deal says that Shell is in no position to make such demands. “We do not know enough about the long-term or even the short-term damage fracking could inflict on the environment.”

The PR stunt by Shell is a deliberate attempt to misinform the public he says, and “we should not be misled by the emotional calls and manufactured facts of such adverts.”

Image Credit: www.rainharvest.co.za

February 17 2011


‘Energy In Depth’ Was Created By Major Oil and Gas Companies According to Industry Memo

DeSmogBlog has uncovered an industry memo revealing that ‘Energy In Depth’ is hardly comprised of the mom-and-pop “small, independent oil and natural gas producers” it claims to represent.  In fact, the industry memo we found, entitled “Hydraulic Fracturing Under Attack,” shows that Energy In Depth “would not be possible without the early financial commitments” of major oil and gas interests including BP, Halliburton, Chevron, Shell, XTO Energy (now owned by ExxonMobil), and several other huge oil and gas companies that provided significant funding early on and presumably still fund the group's efforts.

According to the 2009 memo, Energy In Depth was orchestrated as a “major initiative to respond to…attacks” and to devise and circulate “coordinated messages” using “new communications tools that are becoming the pathway of choice in national political campaigns.”

Energy In Depth (EID) is featured in the news a lot these days, chiefly for attacking the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, but also for its extensive efforts to malign the excellent reporting done by ProPublica, the Associated Press and other outlets. EID seems to attack everyone who attempts to investigate the significant problems posed by hydraulic fracturing and other natural gas industry practices that have been shown to threaten public health and water quality across America.
Here is how Energy In Depth describes itself on its ‘Contact Us’ page:

"Energy In Depth is a project of America’s small, independent oil and natural gas producers...”

While EID prefers to project this ‘mom and pop shop’ image, the June 2009 memo authored by Barry Russell, president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), reveals the seed funding provided by many of the world's largest oil and gas companies for the creation of Energy In Depth.<!--break-->

The memo states:

“The "Energy In Depth" project would not be possible without the early financial commitments of: El Paso Corporation, XTO Energy, Occidental Petroleum, BP, Anadarko, Marathon, EnCana, Chevron, Talisman, Shell, API, IPAA, Halliburton, Schlumberger and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.”

However, none of these major oil and gas companies, or the industry’s largest trade association - the American Petroleum Institute - are acknowledged on the ‘About Us’ page of Energy In Depth’s website.

Instead, Energy In Depth portrays modest origins, suggesting that its “website and affiliated educational programs were created by" a coalition of state-based oil and gas associations, whose logos are featured on the ‘About Us’ page.  This all seems designed to leave the impression that the EID was launched by small, “independent petroleum producers” rather than by the largest oil and gas companies on the planet.

Additionally, Enegy In Depth fails to acknowledge openly that its website URL was created by Dittus Communications, a Washington DC public relations firm best known for its work for major tobacco and nuclear industry interests. (Dittus is now part of Financial Dynamics, an international communications conglomerate.)

For a group that has accused Gasland director Josh Fox of creating an “alternate history,” and claims to want to “set the record straight” about the motives of anyone who dares to question the natural gas industry’s highly controversial hydrofracking practices, EID seems awfully disingenuous about its own ‘humble’ beginnings and ultimate interests.

The memo reveals the key role that the Independent Petroleum Association of America played in launching Energy In Depth:

“For months, IPAA's government relations and communications teams have been working around-the-clock on a new industry-wide campaign – known as "Energy In Depth" (www.energyindepth.org) – to combat new environmental regulations, especially with regard to hydraulic fracturing.”

Two IPAA staffers, Lee Fuller and Jeff Eshelman, spearheaded the launch. Chris Tucker is also listed as staff on the current ‘Contact Us’ page.  Tucker did double duty in 2009 handling communications for Energy In Depth and the Institute for Energy Research, using the same phone number for both. (IER has received over $300,000 from ExxonMobil and an untold amount from other oil and coal interests to confuse the public about climate change and to attack clean energy sources. For example, IER was busted last year by Danish journalists for financing an infamous anti-wind study.)

Why would Energy In Depth want to hide its high-profile sources of funding? 

Perhaps because these same companies are responsible for some of the worst environmental disasters in history, including last year's BP/Halliburton/Anadarko blowout in the Gulf of Mexico; Shell’s multiple atrocities in Nigeria; Chevron’s court-affirmed destruction of the Amazon rainforest; El Paso Corp’s deadly pipeline explosion in Carlsbad, New Mexico; Occidental’s Piper Alpha explosion - the deadliest oil rig disaster in history; to name just a few incidents among this group. 

Perhaps Energy In Depth thinks it might lose credibility with the media and the public if it revealed such key support from these notoriously reckless companies.

Perhaps it should?

January 19 2011


Is Climate Denial Corporate Driven, or Ideological?

Recently, I’ve been reading some research by Riley Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who collaborates frequently with Aaron McCright, another sociologist at Michigan State. Together, they’ve done penetrating work on the right wing resistance to climate change science in the US, and in particular, on the role of conservative think tanks in driving this resistance.

In a series of 2010 papers, however, I’m detecting a theme that runs contrary to what many often assume about the driving forces of climate denial. It is this: McCright & Dunlap argue that while corporate interests may once have seemed front-and-center in spurring resistance to climate science, at this point it's becoming increasingly apparent that ideological motivations are actually the primary motivator. Or as they put it: “conservative movement opposition to climate science and policy has a firm ideological base that supersedes the obvious desire for corporate funding.”<!--break-->

Time was when defending climate research was all about finding out which conservative think tanks were being funded by Exxon Mobil. Or more recently, by the Koch brothers. And there's certainly a lot of special interest influence out there. But McCright and Dunlap argue that we should focus on the power of conservative, free market and anti-regulatory ideology first and foremost. In other words, the corporate funding, when it occurs, may be more a symptom of what's going on than the root cause.

Why? Well, first, Dunlap and McCright note that “conservative think tanks increased their opposition to climate science and the IPCC, even as major portions of industry were reducing theirs.” And I don’t think there’s any denying it: Corporate views on climate change have grown considerably more diverse, with many leading companies, like General Electric, now calling for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Just look at what happened yesterday: The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell called for climate action because the “clock is ticking.” 

Meanwhile, right wing resistance has gotten increasingly shrill, especially after “ClimateGate,” and attacks on climate scientists have only grown more vicious.

A second leg of the argument takes an international focus: Climate denial, say McCright and Dunlap, seems to thrive in nations that “have or have had conservative governments and in which conservative think tanks are firmly planted.” That would include the U.S., UK, Canada, Australia, and Denmark. And then their third argument is to look at “skeptic” scientists: While this isn't uniformly true, they tend to be political conservatives. Indeed, Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway have written that “market fundamentalism” underlies the ideology of the scientists they discuss in their book Merchants of Doubt, like Frederick Seitz.

If McCright and Dunlap are right, there are some important implications. One would be that the continuing growth in the clean energy industry may drive a wedge between business interests on the one hand, and political conservatives on the other.

And the other is that no matter how pragmatically corporate leaders behave on this issue, free market ideologues may nevertheless continue to block action—whether or not it’s good for the economy, or for business.


Dunlap, Riley E. and Aaron M. McCright.  2010. "Climate Change Denial:  Sources, Actors and Strategies."  Pp. 240-259 in Constance Lever-Tracy (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Climate Change and Society.  London:  Routledge.

McCright, Aaron M. and Riley E. Dunlap.  2010.  "Anti-Reflexivity:  The American Conservative Movement‘s Success in Undermining Climate Science and Policy." Theory, Culture and Society 26:100-133.

January 17 2011


Oil Supermajors Desperately Chasing a Tar Sands Pipe Dream

The six major oil companies that for decades enjoyed phenomenal profits and power over the world's oil supply now find themselves fighting over the dirtiest and most dangerous oil left - Alberta's climate-wrecking tar sands and the dangerous deepwater deposits in the Arctic, Gulf of Mexico and other difficult to reach areas. Geoff Dembicki reports today in The Tyee that the oil supermajors once known as the "Seven Sisters" now control a tiny fraction of the world's dwindling oil reserves - just seven percent - while state-owned oil companies and national governments control 93 percent.

That shift in power has left the six Anglo-American oil majors sparring fiercely for control of the remaining dregs to feed our oil addiction.  Dembicki writes that:

"aggressive oil sands development appears to be one of the few viable growth strategies left for ExxonMobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, ConocoPhillips and Chevron. These six energy giants are among the top-earning private companies on Earth. Yet their continued corporate existence, at least in its current form, is far from assured."

In their race to the bottom, these six oil companies are all vying for control of Canada's dirty tar sands. Dembicki notes that:

"all the supermajors own -- or plan to develop -- huge operations in Alberta's oil sands. Canada is one of the few countries left on Earth offering unbridled private sector access to major known oil reserves (in this case, the planet's second-largest)."

An excellent report from Oil Change International recently revealed that the six oil majors don't have much else to show to shareholders besides the climate-killng tar sands, which dominate their portfolios of liquid fuel reserves.  Oil Change International estimates that ConocoPhilliips has derived 71 percent of its liquids reserves from Canada's tar sands over the past five years. That reliance on tar sands is also evident at ExxonMobil (51 per cent), Shell (34 per cent), Total (26 per cent) and Chevron (7 per cent).

Making matters worse, the Tyee notes that the competition over Canadian tar sands has inspired other countries with oil shale deposits to open up for business as well:

"The oil sands, meanwhile, are serving as a model for other countries eager to exploit their own unconventional reserves. Several supermajors, capitalizing on expertise gained in northern Alberta, have signed extraction agreements with governments in Russia, Madagascar and Jordan. They're also eyeing hungrily the potentially massive oil shale deposits spread across Utah, Colorado and Wyoming."

If the supermajors continue heading in that direction - instead of embracing the huge potential of clean energy technologies - they may well survive to profit a few more years on dirty fossil fuels.  But in the long run, they will have sealed the fate of humanity to endure the worst impacts of climate change. 

As the late Judy Bonds could often be heard reminding those engaged in the futile fossil energy race, "there are no jobs on a dead planet."

November 24 2010


November 19 2010


U.S. Oil Imports Shrink, Yet Worries Loom

The United States imported less oil in October because it has been producing more domestically. But exploration has slowed, and environmental concerns have deepened.

November 11 2010


August 26 2010


July 09 2010


Spill Commission Hires Science Adviser

The seven-member commission assembled by President Obama to investigate the BP spill has hired Richard A. Sears, a longtime Royal Dutch Shell scientist, engineer and offshore drilling expert, to be its chief technical adviser.

May 25 2010


7 Seized in Anti-Drilling Protest

Seven members of Greenpeace face charges after a protest that involved boarding an offshore drilling support ship and painting anti-drilling slogans on the side.
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