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March 29 2012


On Our Radar: Organized Environmental Crime

Interpol is carrying out the largest anti-elephant ivory poaching operation ever, with agents in 14 African countries raiding outlets and pursuing traders. Most of the demand for ivory comes from Asian countries like China.

March 28 2012


On Our Radar: The Maldives Movie

In a sense, "The Island President" is the biggest media event that the deposed leader of the Maldives could have hoped for. But the attention he needs has more to do with his country's political turmoil then the film's theme, climate change.
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March 27 2012


December 09 2011


Fracking Ohio's Utica Shale to "Boost Local Economy"? A "Total" Sham

It is a well-known fact that the unconventional gas industry is involved in an inherently toxic business, particularly through hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), which the EPA just confirmed has contaminated groundwater in Wyoming. The documentary film "Gasland," DeSmogBlog's report "Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens our Water, Health, and Climate," and numerous other investigations, reports, and scientific studies have echoed the myriad problems with unconventional oil and gas around the globe.

What is less well-known, but arguably equally as important, is who exactly stands to benefit economically from the destruction of our land, air, and water in the gas industry's rush to profit from the fracking bonanza. The U.S oil and gas industry would have us believe that they are principally focused on ushering in American energy independence. But their claims are increasingly suspect as the real motivation of this industry becomes clearer by the day.

A hint: it's not the small "mom and pop," independent gas companies, but multinational oil and gas corporations. Another hint: it's often not even American multinational oil and gas corporations, but rather, foreign-based multinational oil and gas corporations who stand to gain the most.

France's Total S.A. Enters Ohio's Utica Shale, as well as Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya

On December 7, Bloomberg's Businessweek reported that Total S.A. is positioning itself to acquire 25 percent of Chesapeake Energy’s stake in Ohio's Utica Shale, valued at $2.14 Billion

Total S.A., the largest oil and gas producer in France, is a multinational corporation perhaps most notorious for its involvement in Iraq's "Oil-For-Food" scandal. In 2010, Total S.A. was accused of bribing former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's officials to secure oil supplies. 

Total SA also brokered another big deal on December 7, this one in Uganda, a place I recently wrote about on AlterNet in a piece titled, "Did Obama Just Kick Off Another Oil War — This Time in Africa?" It appears the question raised and answered in my article is being confirmed more and more with each passing day.

Explaining the terms of the deal, Reuters wrote, "French oil major Total said it could build a pipeline from South Sudan to Uganda that would continue to Kenya’s coast, potentially solving the fledgling state’s headache about how to export its oil."

These announcements comes on the heels of a December 1 announcement by another foreign corporation, Norway's Statoil, stating that it "would like to add to its acreage position in the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas as it looks to grow its unconventional oil and gas position in North America."

Speaking of corruption, by the way, Ohio is a natural landing spot for Total S.A.

Ohio: Home to Big Gas Money

Common Cause of Ohio, in a recent report titled "Deep Drilling, Deep Pockets," revealed that from 2001 through June 2011, Republican Governor John Kasich received $213,519 in campaign contributions from the gas industry. The Republican Senatorial and House Campaign Committees took another $210,250 from the gas industry during that same time period.

Not to be outdone, on the other side of the aisle, former Democratic Governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, received $87,450 during that time frame. 

Top donors included the following:

  • Ohio Oil & Gas Producers Fund - $820,285
  • British Petroleum PAC & Employees - $215,438
  • Marathon Oil PAC & Employees - $207,054

Summing things up, Common Cause wrote,

Companies engaged in fracking contributed $2.8 million to state candidates, political committees, and parties in Ohio from 2001 through June 2011, helping the natural gas industry preserve what are some of the nation’s most lenient fracking regulations. Ohio does not require full disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process, has stripped from local governments the power to regulate fracking, and allows fracking as close as 100 feet to a residence.

All in all, this is a bad deal for the people of Ohio, but a great deal for global multinational oil corporations, a pattern all too familiar in the American political fray.

Any way one slices it, the claim that the gas industry first and foremost is a "good neighbor" who will "benefit the local economies," is a total sham. 


May 27 2011


Documents Reveal Canada's Secret 'Oil Sands Team' in Europe

DeSmog has helped to document the Canadian government's extensive efforts in Europe to kill climate change legislation targeting the Alberta tar sands. In a major development today, official documents obtained though an Access to Information request by the Dominion newspaper expose a nefarious “pan-European oil sands advocacy strategy” that is much more coordinated than previously understood. 

According to Martin Lukacs at the Dominion Paper, the Canadian government has carried out a secret plan to boost investment and keep world markets open for Alberta's filthy tar sands oil. Their strategies include collaboration with major oily allies to aggressively undermine European environmental measures.<!--break-->

In December 2009, the federal government “pan-European oil sands advocacy strategy" was launched out of fear that growing opposition could curb European investment in the industry and that the EU restrictions on tar sands imports could be mimicked globally.

While very little of Alberta's tar sands oil is actually exported to Europe (the lion's share goes to the U.S.), entrenched tar sands defenders in Canadian government and the oil companies who stand to profit from it were concerned that European efforts to favor low-carbon fuel sources could influence other countries seeking ways to reduce global warming pollution.

Thus the government worked diligently, and often hand-in-hand with industry, to oppose the European Fuel Quality Directive.

Interestingly, the Team was launched in December 2009 around the time of the United Nations climate negotiations in Copenhagen. Perhaps, rather than mending Canada's damaged reputation, the government figured it could lobby it away.  

According to one of the documents obtained, “Oil sands are posing a growing reputational problem [in Europe], with the oil sands defining the Canadian brand,” The document goes on to argue that, “Canada’s reputation as a clean, reliable source of energy may be put at risk.”

It appears that the Canadian government sees clean fuel legislation as more of a PR problem to be finessed than as as legitimate environmental problem to be addressed. 

The “pan-European oil sands advocacy strategy" is run by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAIT) and involves eight foreign missions who work alongside Natural Resources, Environment Canada and the Alberta government.

The Team routinely monitors green groups, responds to negative media coverage, and assists Canadian policymakers to lobby European parliamentarians and organize trips to Alberta. They've also worked to “enhance cooperation” with oil companies, and coordinated regular meetings between top European oil executives and Albertan and federal ministers, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The diplomatic campaign is much more coordinated than previously understood. It involves the complicity at the highest level of government and oil company executives, from secret meetings to big investments in the tar sands. It's a story so gruesome, it will make your head spin.

Head over to the Dominion Paper and The Tyee to read more. 

Reposted by02mydafsoup-01 02mydafsoup-01

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."

October 20 2010


Oil Industry And Canadian Govt Team Up To Attack European Fuel Standards That Could Limit Alberta Tar Sands Development

The Tyee has an excellent piece exploring the joint lobbying efforts of the Canadian government and the oil industry to attack European climate legislation that would set a precedent that could eventually impact the development of Alberta's dirty tar sands.  

While very little of Alberta's tar sands oil is currently exported to Europe (nearly all goes to the U.S.), the entrenched tar sands defenders in Canadian government and the oil companies who stand to profit from tar sands development are concerned that Europe's efforts to favor low-carbon fuel sources could influence other countries that also need to find ways to reduce global warming emissions - say the U.S. for instance.

That could spell disaster for the Alberta tar sands profiteers, since the tar sands are known to have a far greater carbon footprint than conventional oil, and certainly more than rapidly-growing alternative fuels. 

The Tyee reports about the extensive lobbying being done by Canada and oil interests to block progress on emissions reductions regulation in the EU:

"Canadian officials weren't the only ones concerned. European oil heavyweights Shell, BP, Total and Statoil all have investments in the northern Alberta muskeg. Voluntary lobbying records -- though in obvious ways incomplete -- give some indication of fossil fuel influence. Shell, for instance, reports it spent 400,000 to 450,000 Euros "representing interests to EU institutions" in 2009.

Transport and Environment's Dings, currently based in Belgium, said the Dutch fossil fuel giant is "red hot" on the Fuel Quality Directive. "They have a very well-organized, very deeply-entrenched lobby in the [European] capitals and Brussels," he said. "They make sure that their presence is heard." 

Check out the full story at The Tyee: "Why Europe Could Decide Fate of Canada's Oil Sands."

May 19 2010


Industry Strives for Cleaner Oil From Oil Sands

Extracting oil from oil sands is a messy business, but the industry is working on new techniques that are less destructive to forests and emit far fewer greenhouse gases.
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