December 25, 2018
“We today, we care very much; we say, ‘we have to have hope —if there’s no hope we can’t do anything.’ But even if there is no hope we have to do something. Not having hope is not an excuse for not doing anything. Of course we need hope, but the one thing we need more than hope is action. Because once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope we should look for action. For then, only then, will hope come.”—Greta Thunberg, COP24 Katowice
The children have taken up the leaders’ mantles, and have become our prophets.
More on that, but first the news.
Winter 2019 Rochester Drawdown Events
|Reversing Global Warming: Introduction (Single Sessions)|
|Thursday, Jan. 17, 2019
|Third Presbyterian Church, Johnston Hall;4 Meigs St.; Rochester, NY 14607||Register:
|Tuesday, Jan 22, 2018, 6:00-7:45 pm||Victor Farmington Library
15 W. Main St.; Victor, NY 14564
|Drawdown Solutions: Getting into Action (4 Sessions per Course)|
|Thursdays, Feb. 14, 21, 28, Mar. 28, 2019, 6:30-9:00pm||Third Presbyterian Church, Johnston Hall; 4 Meigs St.; Rochester, NY 14607||Register:
|Related Event: Repairing the Earth II – Hope Through Action
|January 23, 2019; 7-9 p.m.||Temple B’rith Kodesh: 2131 Elmwood Ave. 14618||Register:
A Landowner’s Experience With Dominion Energy
Lynn and William Limpert on their property in Bath County with a tree they expect to lose to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. It’s a sugar maple whose circumference measures 15 feet. Limpert estimates that it is “probably between 250 and 300 years old and too big for the forester’s core sampler.” Photo
The Fourth Circuit Court of Virginia recently stayed the second United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) biological opinion and incidental take statement for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The USFWS document concludes that construction and operation of the ACP would not further threaten a number of endangered species. We believe otherwise. This is the second time the court has acted on this issue.
The original and similar USFWS statement was vacated in earlier proceedings, and the USFWS quickly wrote another, apparently equally flawed. Rank and file USFWS workers have been told that cases involving natural gas pipelines were particularly important, and opinions need approval from head personnel at USFWS. The USFWS has never inspected any part of the proposed ACP. They based their decision in part on surveys conducted by the ACP, with no independent verification of actual site conditions.
The issuance of a stay generally means that the court believes that the case for vacating the USFWS opinion is strong. The stay was requested because the ACP was about to start tree cutting in areas where endangered species were known to exist. This case is expected to be heard next March.
Perhaps the most endangered species along the proposed route of the ACP is the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee, which could easily face extinction in the near future. Last year surveyors for the ACP found a single Rusty Patched Bumble Bee on National Forest land within about 1/2 mile of our home. They only searched for one additional hour after finding the single specimen. The bee was found on June 7th, but the ACP did not report this to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) until July 21st.
FERC is fully funded by the energy industry, and is the agency that has the authority to approve or disapprove interstate gas pipelines. They have been in operation for a little over 40 years, and have approved over 500 gas pipelines, while turning down only two. They are incredibly pro industry and promote the industry rather than truly regulating it. FERC declined to include the finding of the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee in it’s environmental impact statement, and stated that it was too late in the process to include it.
I am a declarant in this case, as are our neighbors. This past summer we searched for and found several Rusty Patched Bumble Bees in our back yard in Bath County, in Little Valley, Virginia. This is within 500 feet of where the ACP is proposed to cut a 125 foot swath of destruction for over 3,000 feet through our certified old growth, and extremely rare never been cut virgin forest. Pipeline construction would cut down about 300 trees on our property which are older than our country. It would also cut down mature groves of Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron, a preferred early season food of the bees. In fact, a large grove of Mountain Laurel on our property has already been cut during an ACP survey of our property last year when the survey crew snuck onto our property.
Further searches by wildlife experts found several more Rusty Patched Bumble Bees on a neighboring property, and elsewhere to our north. This is the largest finding of this extremely rare species in decades.
My wife and I have not received eminent domain papers from the ACP at this time. We expect them at any time, but with the stay in place we are not sure when we will be served. If so, we will argue that the project and the route are in jeopardy, and our property should not be taken under those circumstances. A judge in North Carolina issued a stay in an ACP eminent domain case earlier this year due to uncertainty about the pipeline.
I have seen first hand how ACP surveys do not accurately describe site conditions. Their surveys on our property and elsewhere in Little Valley are inaccurate, and all to the benefit of the ACP. The surveys are conducted by companies hired by the ACP, and I’m sure that they want to give results that are favorable to the company that has hired them. FERC does not survey on their own, and does not require independent verification of ACP survey findings.
I recently learned that the geohazard on site survey for a recent large landslide on the side of Little Mountain very close to the proposed pipeline near our property was made without actually looking at the landslide. The surveyor was nearby, but never bothered to look at the landslide. The report incorrectly compared the slope of the proposed pipeline to the slope of the landslide, and stated that the landslide was far removed from the pipeline. It’s about 250 feet down the mountain from the proposed pipeline. I believe this erroneous report brings into question all of the other geohazard surveys made for the ACP through the entire range of the Appalachian Mountains, where several newly installed gas pipelines have experienced catastrophic explosions this past summer as a result of landslides.
The ACP has a blast zone, or zone of incineration that is 2,200 feet wide. Everything in this area would be immediately incinerated in a pipeline explosion. The evacuation zone, which must be vacated within a matter of minutes to avoid death or serious injury is 1.4 miles wide. If my wife and I and our neighbors were not immediately incinerated during a pipeline explosion we would be trapped in the evacuation zone at the head of Little Valley with no chance of escape or rescue, with the pipeline blocking our only route to safety.
A karst [Karst: landscape underlain by limestone that has been eroded by dissolution, producing ridges, towers, fissures, sinkholes, and other characteristic landforms.] survey that was completed on our property is similarly flawed. We are in an area of limestone where sinkholes, caves, and sinking streams make pipeline construction hazardous, and would threaten our well and spring water. We have sinking streams on each side of the proposed pipeline through our property. One of them sinks into the ground within 250 feet of our drinking water well. Much delayed stream flow following heavy storms indicates a large underground void between our home and the proposed pipeline. We have had an expert conduct a positive test for limestone bedrock in those channels. Nevertheless, the ACP karst report states that karst features have not been verified on our property.
I could go on and on about the injustices that we, and countless other Americans are experiencing at the hands of the natural gas and fossil fuel industry, and the corrupt and complicit government agencies that have allowed this industry to wage war against us. I can tell you that we will not relent in fighting these injustices, and I believe that we will ultimately prevail.—William Limpert, “A Landowner’s Experience With Dominion Energy,” The Banner, 12/15/18
William Limpert, of Bath County, Virginia is a retired environmental regulator
Proposed Danskammer Power Plant Triggers Protests in Newburgh
Proposed Danskammer Power Plant Triggers Protests in Newburgh
Protesters gathered outside Middle Hope elementary school in Newburgh Monday, voicing their opposition to the proposed re-powering of the Danskammer power plant.
The 65-year-old power plant is currently being used only intermittently when more power is needed, but a multi-million dollar proposed project would bring it back online.
The team behind that project is holding a series of public information sessions, hoping to dispel the fears that have people protesting. They say the new plant would actually have a positive effect on the environment.
“We’re trying to upgrade it and replace it. Same size, use the existing pipeline and transmission, and hopefully make it much more environmentally friendly. We will not be using the Hudson river for cooling. The emmissions from the new plant are dramatically lower, over 85 percent lower than older plants,” said Danskammer Energy CEO Bill Reid.
But the protesters say simply being greener than older plants is not enough. Aside from environmental concerns, many are particularly concerned with the economic impact the plant would have.
“These energy companies that have run Danskammer have constantly dropped the ball, and basically financially disadvantaged the local community with bankrupcies [and] losses of tax revenue. They pull out and they leave everybody holding the bag,” said Sandra Kissam, chair of Orange Residents Against Pilgrim Pipelines.
While plant opponents stress that the expansion is a long way from being fully approved, they have been working to grow community awareness of the dangers associated with the proposal and the build-out of new fossil fuel infrastructure.
According to Santosh Nandabalan, Organizer, Food & Water Watch, “The Danskammer fracked gas plant would be a disaster for the Hudson Valley, but also for the fight to protect a safe and livable climate future. Governor Cuomo can live up to his own clean energy rhetoric by stopping this dirty plant and championing a shift to 100% renewable energy.”
Observing that investing $400 million to build a year-round gas plant located in a floodplain is foolhardy, Jo Greene, Environmental Director for “Hudson River Sloop Clearwater stated that “Danskammer already suffered severe damage from the storm surge of Hurricane Sandy and was closed for two years, before being revamped as a gas-fired peaker plant, incentivized by the Lower Hudson Capacity Zone. “As sea level rises and storm surges worsen, the Danskammer site will flood repeatedly and ultimately be under-water. Furthermore, almost all so-called ‘natural’ gas is now fracked, releasing fugitive methane at fracking sites and during processing, transportation via pipelines, at compressor stations and beyond. Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, 25 times worse than carbon dioxide.”
“In order to reach New York’s renewable energy goals set forth by the Cuomo administration, we must start to scale back fossil fuel energy production, not expand it. The Danskammer expansion would lock us into decades more of fossil fuel reliance, which is a step in the wrong direction to meet these goals and in the fight against climate change,” said Eric Wood, NYPIRG, Mid Hudson Regional Coordinator.…—”Danskammer Power Plant Triggers Protests in Newburgh,” Spectrum News, 12/18/18
Court Grants Stay in ACP Eminent Domain Case,
Citing Pending Challenges
Court Grants Stay in ACP Eminent Domain Case, Citing Pending Challenges
A Federal Court has issued a 90-day stay in an attempt by Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC to acquire by eminent domain rights to an 11-acre property in Nash County, NC, citing as a major reason the fact that there are legal challenges to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline project pending in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that could result in a re-examination of the project. In its stay order in the case of Atlantic Coast Pipeline v. Winstead, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of North Carolina stated:
[T]here are considerable challenges to plaintiff’s pipeline project ongoing in the court of appeals, and plaintiff has not sufficiently rebutted Winstead’s argument that, although the current pipeline challenges do not concern the pipeline route in North Carolina, the outcome of one or more of the challenges could cause or require the currently permitted pipeline route to be reexamined, potentially obviating any need to secure an easement on Winstead’s property. In light of all of these circumstances, the Court in its discretion finds that the factors considered tip in favor of granting a temporary stay of these proceedings.…—Ellen Bouton, “Court Grants Stay in ACP Eminent Domain Case, Citing Pending Challenges, Friends of Nelson County,” Friends of Nelson County, 11/19/18
Linda Stewart thinks this time may be the charm
for anti-fracking bill
Linda Stewart thinks this time may be the charm for anti-fracking bill – Orlando Rising
Citing Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis‘ environmental platform, Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart is taking another shot at getting oil and gas hydraulic fracturing, fracking, banned in the state of Florida.
Stewart filed SB 146 putting a fracking ban back on the Senate’s plate for the seventh or eighth time this decade, this time anticipating momentum and help from the governor’s office after DeSantis declared last summer during the campaignthat he would oppose fracking in Florida.
“This time may well be the charm,” Stewart stated in a news release. “We’re about to inaugurate a governor whose environmental platform included a ban on fracking. We intend to hold Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis to that promise, and I’m sure he’ll be supportive of this good bill.”
Once again, the bill face stiff opposition, including that of the Florida Petroleum Council, which contends that it would be unnecessary and unwise to ban the technology, an oil and gas extraction technique in which drillers inject high-pressure water and chemicals deep into the ground to fracture the rock and thereby provide the drillers better access to oil and gas reserves.
It’s not currently performed in Florida but that doesn’t mean the technology should be dismissed, considering efforts to make the United States more energy independent, the council stated. FPC Executive Director David Mica contended that SB 146 goes way beyond a simple ban anyway, “and basically outlaws exploration for oil and gas in Florida.”…—Scott Powers, “Linda Stewart thinks this time may be the charm for anti-fracking bill,” Orlando Rising, 12/18/18
The Dozen Years Left
School strike for climate
Save the world by changing the rules
School strike for climate – save the world by changing the rules | Greta Thunberg | TEDxStockholm
“We today, we care very much; we say, ‘we have to have hope —if there’s no hope we can’t do anything.’ But even if there is no hope we have to do something. Not having hope is not an excuse for not doing anything. Of course we need hope, but the one thing we need more than hope is action. Because once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope we should look for action. For then, only then, will hope come.”—Greta Thunberg, COP24 Katowice, 12/12/18
Greta Thunberg realized at a young age the lapse in what several climate experts were saying and in the actions that were being taken in society. The difference was so drastic in her opinion that she decided to take matters into her own hands. Greta is a 15-year-old Stockholm native who lives at home with her parents and sister Beata. She’s a 9th grader in Stockholm who enjoys spending her spare time riding Icelandic horses, spending time with her families two dogs, Moses and Roxy. She love animals and has a passion for books and science. At a young age, she became interested in the environment and convinced her family to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.—Greta Thunberg, “School strike for climate – save the world by changing the rules,” TEDxStockholm|YouTube, 12/12/18
Noam Chomsky: Political Betrayal, Mobilizing Action
Noam Chomsky – Political Betrayal, Mobilizing Action
We interviewed Noam Chomsky shortly before COP-24, the UN climate negotiations which took place in Katowice, Poland the first two weeks of December. The COP itself ended as expected, with little progress and yet another kick of the can down the road. Noam’s allusion to Nero in this video is quite apt.—Stuart Scott, “Noam Chomsky – Political Betrayal, Mobilizing Action,” Scientistswarning.tv|YouTube
Louisiana Offers Fossil Fuel Exporter
‘Single Largest’ Local Tax Giveaway in American History
Louisiana Offers Fossil Fuel Exporter ‘Single Largest’ Local Tax Giveaway in American History
Louisiana plans to collect no industrial property tax from the $15.2 billion Driftwood liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal planned for its southwest corner, state officials announced last week.
Critics say this tax break is worth $1.4 to $2.4 billion, making it one of the largest local corporate tax exemptions in American history — even larger than those offered to Amazon for its much sought-after second headquarters.
This research discovers that G20 country governments’ support to fossil fuel production marries bad economics with potentially disastrous consequences for climate change. In effect, governments are propping up the production of oil, gas and coal, much of which cannot be used if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.—“Empty promises: G20 subsidies to oil, gas and coal production,” Overseas Development Institute
Proposed by the natural gas firm Tellurian, the Driftwood terminal, which would liquefy and export 4 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day, is one of over a dozen gas export terminals proposed around the U.S. and fueled by a glut of shale gas released by fracking. The final investment decision for Driftwood is expected in early 2019, as are decisions on two other proposed Gulf Coast export terminals.
The move comes as a group of investors and insurers have called on the U.S. and all other G20 nations to end fossil fuel subsidies entirely by 2020, citing the risk that climate change poses to the global economy.…—Sharon Kelly, “Louisiana Offers Fossil Fuel Exporter ‘Single Largest’ Local Tax Giveaway in American History,” DeSmogBlog, 12/20/18
Saving Ourselves with Rocks, Crops & Soil
David Beerling – Saving Ourselves with Rocks, Crops & Soil
Dr. David Beerling from the University of Sheffield presents his current research into how we might trap gigatons of Carbon, using rock waste from previous mining, and a technique called ‘enhanced weathering’. The process appears also to increase the yield of crops. Trials have been very promising.
Further reading: Farming with crops and rocks to address global climate, food and soil security, Nature
There’s a huge quadruple win here… sequester bast carbon emissions, get rid of huge piles of rock, save on fertilizers, increase food yields, generate carbon credits.—David Beerling,”Saving Ourselves with Rocks, Crops & Soil,” ScientistsWarning.tv|YouTube, 12/18/18
2nd camp set up to block pipeline company’s access to Wet’suwet’en land
2nd camp set up to block pipeline company’s access to Wet’suwet’en land | CBC News
Freda Huson speaking to supporters outside the Prince George courthouse before a hearing last week regarding the injunction application made by Coastal GasLink. Photo credit: Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC
A second checkpoint has been put up on a remote B.C. forestry road to block construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, days after a court ordered that the first one must stop preventing the company from accessing the road and a bridge.
An interim injunction order from a B.C. court last Friday ordered the individuals at the Unist’ot’en camp, a self-described re-occupation of Wet’suwet’en land, to stop impeding Coastal GasLink from gaining access to the logging road and bridge it argues is on a critical path it needs to access as part of pipeline construction.
The pipeline is part of an estimated $40 billion natural gas project slated for construction in B.C. The nearly 700 km long pipeline is meant to transport natural gas from northeastern B.C. to a liquefied natural gas plant slated for construction in the north coast community of Kitimat.
In the injunction, those at the Unist’ot’en camp were given 72 hours to remove physical barriers on the bridge so contractors and employees of Coastal GasLink, a subsidiary of Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., could have access to worksites.
But days after that injunction deadline took effect, instead of granting the company access, a new checkpoint has been established, by another group from the Wet’suwet’en, about 20 km away on the same logging road.…
Hereditary chiefs stand behind camp
In the Prince George courthouse last Thursday, dozens of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, matriarchs and Unist’ot’en supporters sat together to listen to the submissions made before the judge.
The hereditary leadership of the Wet’suwet’en are familiar with spending time in courts. They were parties to the landmark Delgamuukw case where the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that Wet’suwet’en rights and title to the nation’s 22,000 square km of traditional territory had never been extinguished.…—Chantelle Bellrichard, “2nd camp set up to block pipeline company’s access to Wet’suwet’en land,” CBC News 12/20/18
Greta Thunberg on the Climate Mess
Greta Thunberg’s School Strike for the Climate
At our program at COP-24 in Poland, 15-year-old Greta is inspiring kids all over the world to save their future from the rampant double-speak of their political leaders. Her one-woman School Strike for the Climate has become an international civil disobedience movement. This program is not to be missed. Please share widely. Our children’s world depends upon us waking up the money dominated political system that is destroying our kids’ future for near term profits.—Stuart Scott, Victoria Hurth, “Greta Thunberg’s School Strike for the Climate,” ScientistsWarning.tv|Youtube, 12/4/18
The Farm Bureau: Big Oil’s Unnoticed Ally
Fighting Climate Science and Policy
The Farm Bureau: Big Oil’s Unnoticed Ally Fighting Climate Science and Policy
While big oil and gas companies provided the cash for anti-regulation campaigns, the farm lobby offered up a sympathetic face: the American farmer.
When Republican Rep. Steve Scalise stepped to the dais in the U.S. House of Representatives in July and implored his colleagues to denounce a carbon tax, he didn’t reach for dire predictions made by the fossil fuel titans that pushed for the resolution.
Instead, he talked about America’s farmers.
“Why don’t we listen to what the American Farm Bureau Federation said about a carbon tax?” the Louisiana congressman said, holding up a letter from the group, the nation’s largest farm lobby. “‘Agriculture is an energy-intensive sector, and a carbon tax levied on farmers and ranchers would be devastating,'” he read.
Advocacy groups with close ties to the oil billionaires Charles and David Koch had urged House leaders to get the anti-tax resolution approved.
When the measure passed, by a big margin, it proved—not for the first time, nor the last —the Farm Bureau’s role as a powerful defender of the nation’s fossil fuel interests.
For more than three decades, the Farm Bureau has aligned agriculture closely with the fossil fuel agenda. Though little noticed next to the influence of the fossil fuel industry, the farm lobby pulled in tandem with the energy lobby in a mutually reinforcing campaign to thwart the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, legislation like the Waxman-Markey economy-wide cap-and-trade plan, and regulations that would limit fossil fuel emissions.
This article, part of a series exploring agriculture’s role in climate change and the influence of the Farm Bureau, examines the close ties between the two industries as they fought to undermine climate policy.…—Neela Banerjee, Georgina Gustin, John H. Cushman Jr., “The Farm Bureau: Big Oil’s Unnoticed Ally Fighting Climate Science and Policy,” InsideClimate News, 12/21/18
It devours our land
It devours our land | The Narwhal
Surrounded on three sides by tar sands operations, the Fort McKay First Nation has benefited tremendously from industrial development — while also experiencing firsthand its environmental consequences.
While the nation has historically supported nearby operations, when Prosper Petroleum proposed a 10,000 barrel per day tar sands project near Moose Lake, an area of sacred cultural value for the people of Fort McKay, the community reached a tipping point.
The nation filed a lawsuit against the province of Alberta on December 3, after years of effort to prevent the proposal from going forward failed to protect the treasured region and the Fort McKay way of life.
The lawsuit contends that, because of significant forestry, mining, oil and gas development and road building, Fort McKay’s ability to practice treaty rights — to hunt, fish, trap and gather medicinal plants — relies almost exclusively on their continued access to the relatively intact landscape surrounding Moose Lake.
As long as the river flows
In 1899, the Fort McKay First Nation became a signatory of Treaty 8, an agreement that promised to preserve the nation’s traditional ways of life “as long the sun shines, the river flows and the grass grows.”
As recently as the 1960s the reserve of Fort McKay had no running water. The people, housed in humble shacks, relied for sustenance on the landscape of Alberta’s northern boreal forest and the Athabasca River — the thread that connected the remote community to the rest of Canada.
This way of life, the Fort McKay say, sustained them for thousands of years.
But as one elder Zackary Powder puts it, “It’s not like it used to be. Everything has changed.”…—Aaron Vincent Elkaim, “It devours our land,” The Narwhal, 12/13/18
What America Still Stands to Lose as Zinke Leaves Interior
and Ex-Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt Stands by
What America Still Stands to Lose as Zinke Leaves Interior and Ex-Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt Stands by
With the resignation of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, environmental and public lands advocates are asking: Will the new leader be any better for the environment than the previous one? And from their perspective, the answer is a resounding, “No.”
David Bernhardt, the current Deputy Interior Secretary, a former oil industry lobbyist, is likely to become Acting Secretary when Zinke leaves at the end of the year. He shares the same types of conflicts of interest his boss does. The Western Values Project (WVP), a pro-public lands group, has documented Bernhardt’s many conflicts, illustrating how his work helps special interest groups — including some of his former clients — in advancing agendas that often undermine protections for public lands and wildlife.
“Ryan Zinke’s tenure at the Department of Interior was a disaster for public lands of historic proportions,” WVP’s executive director Chris Saeger wrote in a recent statement. “The public and Congress should continue their commitment to vigilant oversight over the ongoing ethical abuses at Interior in order to repair its reputation.”
Saeger finds little to celebrate with the latest turnover in the Trump administration: “The musical chairs that have become the hallmark of this administration mean that at least in the interim, Trump is just replacing one scandal-plagued Secretary with the ultimate DC swamp creature and ex-lobbyist David Bernhardt.”…
Warning From Scientist Who Worked Under Zinke
“I’m delighted to see Ryan Zinke get his comeuppance. He was corrupt and arrogant in his disdain for science and public lands,” Joel Clement, a former senior scientist and policy expert with the Interior Department, wrote in an email following the news of Zinke’s resignation, “but his number two at Interior is equally corrupt and far more circumspect-beware.”
Clement, who filed for whistle-blower protection and ultimately resigned while working under Zinke, is now a senior fellow with the Center for Science and Democracy with the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). He currently works to expose political interference in science and fight attacks on federal science from the Trump administration and Congress.
Under Secretary Zinke, Clement, a biologist, was removed as a top climate expert at the Interior Department and moved into an accounting position within the Office of Natural Resources Revenue, a job he lacked expertise for and which collects royalties from oil companies operating on federal lands. Clement claimed he was reassigned in retaliation for his work on the impacts of climate change on Native Alaskan communities.
“America’s public lands, and the natural and cultural resources they contain, belong to all of us,” Clement recently wrote in a Scientific American editorial. In the editorial, he rolled out the UCS report, “Science Under Siege at the Department of the Interior,” documenting what Clement describes as the “most egregious and anti-science policies and practices at the DOI under Secretary Zinke.”…—Julie Dermansky, “What America Still Stands to Lose as Zinke Leaves Interior and Ex-Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt Stands by,” DeSmogBlog, 12/16/18
Persecution of Top Federal Climate Scientist
PERSECUTION OF TOP FEDERAL CLIMATE SCIENTIST
Washington, DC — The federal government’s leading expert on the human health impacts of climate change is the target of a wide-ranging reprisal campaign which began days after the Trump inauguration. He has been gagged, reassigned, had his program dismantled, and has been subjected to a welter of seemingly farcical charges, as detailed in documents posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Dr. George Luber, an epidemiologist, is Chief of the Climate and Health Program, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). He had been the very public face of climate science at CDC, frequently appearing on TV news and speaking at professional conferences. He is the lead author for the Fourth National Climate Assessment’s Chapter on Human Health, released last month, and was also the lead author for a report the U.S. Supreme Court cited in its seminal 2007 ruling that greenhouse gases should be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
In February 2017, CDC cancelled, over his objections, a symposium Dr. Luber was slated to host featuring Al Gore. He was then directed to stop using the phrase “climate change” and forbidden from responding to any further media or congressional inquiries.
In March 2018, CDC revoked his badge, phone, and credentials, placing him on a BOLO (be on the lookout) list as a security risk, barring him from entering the facility except under armed guard and with prior approval, and then only to retrieve materials. Every time he goes to his office, Dr. Luber and his car are thoroughly searched in front of his colleagues.
“CDC is deliberately humiliating and degrading a prominent researcher because of the subject matter of his work,” stated PEER Staff Counsel Kevin Bell, noting that Dr. Luber’s Climate Heath Program has also been collapsed into a larger Community Health program, with no mention of climate change in its title. “To please new political masters, CDC has exiled climate science to an organizational penal colony.”…—Kirsten Stade,”Persecution of Top Federal Climate Scientist,” PEER, 12/20/18
Fracking in 2018: Another Year of Pretending to Make Money
Fracking in 2018: Another Year of Pretending to Make Money
2018 was the year the oil and gas industry promised that its darling, the shale fracking revolution, would stop focusing on endless production and instead turn a profit for its investors. But as the year winds to a close, it’s clear that hasn’t happened.
Instead, the fracking industry has helped set new records for U.S. oil production while continuing to lose huge amounts of money — and that was before the recent crash in oil prices.
But plenty of people in the industry and media make it sound like a much different, and more profitable, story.
Broken Promises and Record Production
Going into this year, the fracking industry needed to prove it was a good investment (and not just for its CEOs, who are garnering massive paychecks).
In January, The Wall Street Journal touted the prospect of frackers finally making “real money … for the first time” this year. “Shale drillers are heeding growing calls from investors who have chastened the companies for pumping ever more oil and gas even as they incur losses doing so,” oil and energy reporter Bradley Olson wrote.
Olson’s story quoted an energy asset manager making the (always) ill-fated prediction about the oil and gas industry that this time will be different.
“Is this time going to be different? I think yes, a little bit,” said energy asset manager Will Riley. “Companies will look to increase growth a little, but at a more moderate pace.”
Despite this early optimism, Bloomberg noted in February that even the Permian Basin — “America’s hottest oilfield” — faced “hidden pitfalls” that could “hamstring” the industry.
They were right. Those pitfalls turned out to be the ugly reality of the fracking industry’s finances.
And this time was not different.
On the edge of the Permian in New Mexico, The Albuquerque Journal reported the industry is “on pace this year to leap past last year’s record oil production,” according to Ryan Flynn, executive director of the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association. And yet that oil has at times been discounted as much as $20 a barrel compared to world oil prices because New Mexico doesn’t have the infrastructure to move all of it.
Who would be foolish enough to produce more oil than the existing infrastructure could handle in a year when the industry promised restraint and a focus on profits? New Mexico, for one. And North Dakota. And Texas.
In North Dakota, record oil production resulted in discounts of $15 per barrel and above due to infrastructure constraints.
Further reading: Why Canadian Tar Sands Oil May Be Doomed
Texas is experiencing a similar story. Oilprice.com cites a Goldman Sachs prediction of discounts “around $19-$22 per [barrel]” for the fourth quarter of 2018 and through the first three quarters of next year.
Shale Oil Industry ‘More Profitable Than Ever’ — Or Is It?
However, Reuters recently analyzed 32 fracking companies and declared that “U.S. shale firms are more profitable than ever after a strong third quarter.” How is this possible?
Reading a bit further reveals what Reuters considers “profits.”
“The group’s cash flow deficit has narrowed to $945 million as U.S. benchmark crude hit $70 a barrel and production soared,” reported Reuters.
So, “more profitable than ever” means that those 32 companies are running a deficit of nearly $1 billion. That does not meet the accepted definition of profit.
A separate analysis released earlier this month by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and The Sightline Institute also reviewed 32 companies in the fracking industry and reached the same conclusion: “The 32 mid-size U.S. exploration companies included in this review reported nearly $1 billion in negative cash flows through September.”
The numbers don’t lie. Despite the highest oil prices in years and record amounts of oil production, the fracking industry continued to spend more than it made in 2018. And somehow, smaller industry losses can still be interpreted as being “more profitable than ever.”…
Wall Street Continues to Fund an Unsustainable Business Model
Why does the fracking industry continue to receive more investments from Wall Street despite breaking its “promises” this year?
Because that is how Wall Street makes money. Whether fracking companies are profitable or not doesn’t really matter to Wall Street executives who are getting rich making the loans that the fracking industry struggles to repay.
An excellent example of this is the risk that rising interest rates pose to the fracking industry. Even shale companies that have made profits occasionally have done so while also amassing large debts. As interest rates rise, those companies will have to borrow at higher rates, which increases operating costs and decreases the likelihood that shale companies losing cash will ever pay back that debt.
Continental Resources, one of the largest fracking companies, is often touted as an excellent investment. Investor’s Business Daily recently noted that “[w]ithin the Oil & Gas-U.S. Exploration & Production industry, Continental is the fourth-ranked stock with a strong 98 out of a highest-possible 99 [Investor’s Business Daily] Composite Rating.”
And yet when Simply Wall St. analyzed the company’s ability to pay back its over $6 billion in debt, the stock market news site concluded that Continental isn’t well positioned to repay that debt. However, it noted “[t]he sheer size of Continental Resources means it is unlikely to default or announce bankruptcy anytime soon.” For frackers, being at the top of the industry apparently means being too big to fail [a phrase that some readers will have cause to associate with personal financial disaster.—Editor].…—Justin Mikulka, “Fracking in 2018: Another Year of Pretending to Make Money,” DeSmogBlog, 12/18/18
The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change
Isn’t a Technology
The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn’t a Technology
The latest IPCC report does not mince words about the state of our planet: we must act now to achieve global change at a scale that has “no documented historical precedent” in order to avoid the climate catastrophe that would result from a 2 degree C rise in average global temperature. Climate change already disproportionately affects the world’s most vulnerable people including poor rural communities that depend on the land for their livelihoods and coastal communities throughout the tropics. Indeed, we have already seen the stark asymmetry of suffering resulting from extreme weather events, such as hurricanes, floods, droughts, wildfires and more.
So far, advocates and politicians have tended to focus on reducing fossil fuel consumption through technology and/or policy, such as a steep carbon tax, as climate solutions. These proposals are, of course, essential to reducing manmade carbon emissions—71 percent of which are generated by just 100 fossil fuel companies. For this reason, fossil-fuel–related emissions reductions rightly figure heavily in the national climate commitments of the 181 nations that signed the global Paris Agreement.
Yet the international focus on fossil fuels has overshadowed the most powerful and cost-efficient carbon-capture technology the world has yet seen: forests. Recent scientific research confirms that forests and other “natural climate solutions” are absolutely essential in mitigating climate change, thanks to their carbon sequestering and storage capabilities. In fact, natural climate solutions can help us achieve 37 percent of our climate target, even though they currently receive only 2.5 percent of public climate financing.
Forests’ power to store carbon dioxide through the simple process of tree growth is staggering: one tree can store an average of about 48 pounds of carbon dioxide in one year. Recent research shows intact forests are capable of storing the equivalent of the carbon dioxide emissions of entire countries such as Peru and Colombia.…—Han De Groot, “The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn’t a Technology,” Scientific American Blog Network, 12/5/18
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