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November 12 2013

20:19

Is Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies Even on the Agenda in Warsaw?

A sunny day in Beijing

A sunny day in Beijing

For all their potential promise, apparent earnestness and gravity – not to mention their possible effects and potential ramifications – it’s hard at times not to be cynical about high-level political negotiations. Such might be felt of the United Nations (UN) climate treaty negotiations which got under way this week in Warsaw, Poland.

People have good reason to be skeptical of the climate treaty process, not because global warming and climate change are based on faulty science or because viable options aren’t in hand, but because governments and societies around the world are so invested in fossil fuels that the thought that political leaders would collectively take aggressive action to phase out carbon and greenhouse gas emissions is nigh unthinkable.

Take, for example, that even as representatives from the 195 UN member nations party to the UN Framework on Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meet to establish the framework of an agreement to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that G20 governments doled out $523 billion in subsidies to fossil fuel producers in 2011, the latest year such figures are available. What’s more, fossil fuel subsidies are rising, even as the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) just last week reported that global greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high in 2012.

To say such subsidies are counterproductive would be gross understatement. Perverse would be a better modifier. Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would remove a perverse incentive that stands in the way of leveling the energy markets “playing field,” putting a true cost on carbon in an attempt to address global warming and climate change.

Releasing a report entitled Time to change the game: Fossil fuel subsidies and climate, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) documents “the scale of fossil fuel subsidies and sets out a practical agenda for their elimination in the context of the global goal of tackling climate change.”

Climate treaty negotiators convene in Warsaw

Against the backdrop of devastation in the Philippines caused by Typhoon Haiyan – reportedly one of, if not the largest and strongest, typhoon ever recorded – the 19th Conference of Parties (COP 19) to the UNFCCC is convening November 11-22 in (ironically enough) Warsaw, Poland, a nation with a government that has steadfastly resisted efforts to shift off coal and fossil fuels toward a more diversified energy mix centered on cleaner, renewable alternatives.

Convening at COP 19 in Warsaw over the next 11 days, representatives from the 195 UN member nations that are parties to the international climate treaty (the U.S. included) and the 192 that have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol (the U.S. excluded) will attempt to hammer out the framework of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. Full details of a new accord to reduce global carbon and greenhouse gas emissions are to be ready for signing by 2015 to go into effect in 2020.

Trying to make the negotiations as inclusive as possible, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP) has become a major public event. At COP 19 in Warsaw, representatives of 195 UN member nations will be joined by a host of NGOs, civic groups, other public and private sector organizations, the press, and, more than likely, large numbers of demonstrators.

Enhancing the efficacy and credibility of global climate change action

The UNFCCC’s public credibility – not to mention its efficacy – would be greatly enhanced if the national governments party to the international treaty were to take one expedient, cost-effective step: eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, ODI asserts, and they are by no means the first to advocate taking such a step.

Source:

Source: “Time to change the game,” ODI, 11/2013

Straight from the executive summary of “Time to change the game: Fossil fuel subsidies and climate,” here are ODI’s key points:

  • Fossil fuel subsidies are expensive. They were at over $500 billion globally in 2011, and up to $90 billion in the OECD alone.
  • These subsidies are increasing and are a major obstacle to green investment, and seriously undermine attempts to put a price on carbon.
  • In developing countries the majority of benefits from fossil fuel subsidies go to the richest 20 percent of households.
  • Domestic and international support for fossil fuels dwarfs spending on health and education in a number of countries, and outstrips climate finance and aid.
  • Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies in G20 countries by 2020 (and globally by 2025), with proper safeguards for the poor, would enable the triple win of inclusive green growth.

Perverse incentives indeed, and the above is only a short list. According to ODI’s study, “international financial institutions (IFIs) also support carbon-intensive energy systems.

“Over 75 percent of energy-project support from IFIs to 12 of the top developing-country emitters went to fossil fuel projects. There has been no significant shift in this trend: in the last financial year alone (2012-13), the World Bank Group increased its lending for fossil fuel projects to $2.7 billion, including continued lending for oil and gas exploration (Oil Change International, 2013).”

As ODI goes on to state:

“If their aim is to avoid dangerous climate change, governments are shooting themselves in both feet. They are subsidizing the very activities that are pushing the world towards dangerous climate change, and creating barriers to investment in low-carbon development and subsidy incentives that encourage investment in carbon-intensive energy.

“Coal, the most carbon-intensive fuel of all, is taxed less than any other source of energy and is, in some countries, actively subsidized (OECD, 2013a). For every $1 spent to support renewable energy, another $6 are spent on fossil fuel subsidies (IEA, 2013).”

Following, in summary form, are the key actions ODI is urging G20 UNFCCC climate treaty delegates take in Warsaw:

  •  G20 countries use the Warsaw CoP meeting to agree a broad timeline for action
  • G20 governments call on technical agencies to agree a common definition of fossil fuel subsidies
  • G20 governments commit to phasing out all fossil fuel subsidies by 2020, with early action by rich-country members on subsidies to coal and to oil and gas exploration by 2015
  • that governments and donors work together to ensure that measures are put in place to protect vulnerable groups from the impact of subsidy removal.

Eliminating fossil fuel subsidies would be one of the most straightforward, cost-effective and effective steps world governments could take to address the profound threats and rising costs of addressing global warming and climate change. Will they muster the will and toughness to do so? Not likely, but one can at least hope for the best.

The post Is Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies Even on the Agenda in Warsaw? appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 29 2012

23:49

Coalition Calls On Duke Energy To Dump American Legislative Exchange Council

A coalition of environmental, civil rights and democracy reform groups today called upon Duke Energy to join the 38 other companies that have left the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. In their letter sent to Duke CEO Jim Rogers this morning, the coalition requests that Duke Energy "disassociate and stop funding ALEC immediately."

"We collectively call upon Duke Energy to drop all financial and staff support to ALEC due not only to their role in blocking clean energy implementation and solutions to global warming, but due to their direct attacks on democracy and our civil rights."

As Greenpeace's Connor Gibson points out in his blog about the effort,

"Duke Energy has distinguished itself from other polluters with rhetorical commitments to tackling global warming and implementing clean energy, but stops short of meaningful action. By dumping ALEC, Duke would take a step in the right direction toward the potential it has to become a cleaner energy company."
  

Here is the full-text of the letter to Jim Rogers:


    Dear Mr. Rogers,

    We, the undersigned, a coalition of environmental, civil rights, and democracy reform groups are writing to express our concern for the extensive support provided by Duke Energy to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and request Duke Energy disassociate and stop funding ALEC immediately.

    ALEC is not only responsible for drafting model state laws attacking renewable energy programs and climate policies, it is also intentionally crafting and supporting Voter ID bills and other legislation designed to suppress people from voting and participating in our democracy. We are concerned about this fundamental attack on our democracy and civil rights, and Duke Energy’s support for it.

    Duke Energy has repeatedly stated concern over climate change, yet is participating in ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force, which includes notorious climate skeptics like the Heartland Institute and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (which we understand Duke Energy disassociated from in 2009 due to its role in obstructing national climate policy). In direct opposition to Duke Energy’s position on climate, ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force continues to advance legislative efforts that attempt to deny the realities of climate change.

    ALEC more broadly demonstrates an attack against state action on climate change and renewable energy, promoting laws and resolutions that undermine state’s abilities to address climate change and expand clean energy. While Jim Rogers has called for the US to “wean [itself] from the use of foreign oil,”[viii] Duke works alongside multinational oil companies like ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and Chevron within ALEC, all of which are known for their heavy obstruction of U.S. climate and clean energy policies.

    Perhaps most alarmingly, ALEC is spearheading attacks on our democracy and civil rights, promoting Voter ID legislation and other bills intended to make it more difficult for people to vote and participate in our democracy. These bills will most dramatically hit young people, people of color and poor people, suppressing them and their ability to vote.

    We collectively call upon Duke Energy to drop all financial and staff support to ALEC due not only to their role in blocking clean energy implementation and solutions to global warming, but due to their direct attacks on democracy and our civil rights.

    We look forward to a quick response and would be happy to provide any clarification or additional resources informing our questions, if needed.

    Sincerely,

    Energy Action Coalition
    Greenpeace
    Common Cause
    Center for Media & Democracy
    CREDO Action
    Public Citizen
    Friends of the Earth
    Progressive Change Campaign Committee
    Oil Change International
    Southern Energy Network
    Checks & Balances Project

 

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September 01 2011

09:51

Hillary Clinton's State Department Oil Services and the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline [VIDEO]

With over 700 people arrested so far in the Keystone XL tar sands action taking place at the Obama White House, and widespread distrust and criticism of the State Department’s final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), this is a critical moment in the fight against a disastrous proposal to build a tar sands pipeline between Alberta and oil refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast. 

Given the scientific certainty that tar sands oil is a recklessly dirty form of energy - as well as fresh evidence from Oil Change International debunking the claims that increasing our dependence on Canadian oil would be helpful for U.S. national security - it should be a no brainer for the Obama administration to say no to TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline.

But powerful oil industry lobbying, as well as pressure from the Canadian government, seem to have deflated and cast aside this administration’s stated commitments to science-based decisionmaking. Rather than working to transition the nation to a clean energy future now, an Obama administration approval of Keystone XL would further solidify our dirty fossil fuel addiction.

To highlight the influence of oil industry lobbyists over Hillary Clinton’s State Department and its unscientific review of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline proposal, DeSmogBlog presents a video animation created by artist Mark Fiore, depicting the not-so-far-fetched “State Department Oil Services” led by Hillary Clinton:




Visit DeSmogBlog’s Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Action Page for more information.

09:50

Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Action Page

Below is a compilation of fact sheets, information resources and action items from environmental groups, governments and other groups surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline and the Canadian tar sands. Please contact us or comment below if you know of additional resources we should add to this page.

TarSandsAction.org - Coalition organizing the White House protest and a 10,000+ strong petition urging President Obama to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.

Friends of the Earth's Keystone XL pipeline resource page, petition and report "Dirty Business: How TransCanada Pipelines bullies farmers, manipulates oil markets, threatens fresh water and skimps on safety in the United States."

NRDC's Stop Dirty Fuels: Tar Sands - Fact sheets about tar sands, Switchboard blogs on the Keystone XL pipeline, and a BioGems petition to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

National Wildlife Federation's Keystone XL Pipeline page and Tar Sands page- numerous fact sheets on Keystone XL and tar sands.

Oil Change International's report "Exporting Energy Security: Keystone XL Exposed" debunking the claims that Canadian tar sands oil is good for U.S. national security.

Bold Nebraska's Keystone XL resource page and letter urging Secretary Clinton and Governor Heineman to deny TransCanada's permit request.

Stand With Randy - Nebraska farmer and landowner Randy Thompson's page opposing the Keystone XL pipeline.

Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman's letter urging President Obama and Hillary Clinton to reject TransCanada's Keystone XL permit.

energyNOW! interview with DOE Secretary Steven Chu about the Keystone XL.

Rainforest Action Network's tar sands page with reports and fact sheets on Keystone XL.

Greenpeace Canada's tar sands page and report "Dirty Oil: How the Tar Sands Are Fueling the Global Climate Crisis" [PDF]

Avaaz's petition against the Keystone XL pipeline.

DailyKos page with sample letters to the editor about the State Department's Keystone XL decision.

DirtyOilSands.org website about the Canadian tar sands.

Interfaith Religious Contingent Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Sojourners religious site with tons of content about Keystone XL and climate issues.

U.S. State Department page on the Keystone XL pipeline.

TransCanada description of its Keystone XL pipeline proposal.

Selected readings about the Keystone XL pipeline:

NASA scientist James Hansen's "Silence Is Deadly" [PDF] June 2011 piece about Keystone XL.

Bill McKibben: "Why I Got Arrested Over the Keystone XL Pipeline".

New York Times Editorial  urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL proposal.

 

Los Angeles Times article exposing a 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa showing early U.S. support for Keystone XL long before the appropriate agency review process.

The Tyee's 'War Over Oil Sands' series of reports.

Robert van Waarden's photo essay of the impacts of tar sands development on Canadian First Nations communities.

DeSmogBlog's ongoing coverage of the Keystone XL issue as well as our tar sands coverage.

Mark Fiore's "State Department Oil Services" animation commissioned by DeSmogBlog:

Please contact us or comment below if you know of additional resources that should be added to this page.

July 29 2011

22:38

EIA's Politically Dictated “Garbage” Subsidy Report Obtained And Released Publicly

The Checks and Balances Project has obtained a copy of the controversial Energy Information Administration report that was called “garbage” by EIA Acting Administrator Howard Gruenspecht.  The polluter-friendly report was just delivered yesterday afternoon to the GOP House requesters, Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD). Checks and Balances provided a copy to DeSmogBlog, which we’re providing to the public here: “Direct Federal Financial Interventions and Subsidies in Energy in Fiscal Year 2010" [PDF].

Gabe Elsner, Deputy Director of the Checks and Balances Project, told DeSmogBlog that, “if it’s true that the Acting Administrator Gruenspecht called this report a “piece of garbage” he was right, because it deliberately leaves out the six other ways in which coal, oil and natural gas get government handouts.  The fossil fuel welfare tab is tens or hundreds of times greater than the cost of pro-renewable policy support.” 

Elsner says that this report is essentially a re-issue of the 2007 Alexander study that was designed to defend public welfare to the fossil fuel industry, such as oil and gas industry subsidies. The new EIA analysis fails to take into account the full range of subsidies at play in the energy sector, and therefore delivers a favorable analysis of fossil fuels over renewables.

By excluding a lot of the other avenues of direct federal support given disproportionately to fossil fuel interests, as well as financial tools designed to assist dirty energy companies, the report is just plain faulty, or “fuzzy math” as some guy once said.

Missing from the EIA calculations are a plethora of advantages the dirty energy industry enjoys over clean tech companies, including outsized direct subsidies for mature industries, publicly funded pollution cleanup assistance, cheap insurance, low interest federal loans, extensive tax breaks, and – most gut wrenching in the wake of Tim DeChristopher’s imprisonment – insanely cheap public lands leases for oil and gas drilling, as well as access to public lands and tax credits to build transmission lines.

On Monday, the Checks and Balances Project, Greenpeace US and Oil Change International plan to file this Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request [PDF] to the EIA seeking records of the meetings and communications between the EIA and the three GOP Congressmembers’ offices, as well as other materials used in compiling the report.

Stay tuned for updates to this post.

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