One (Obscenely Profitable) Day In the Life of Big Oil August 2, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Economic Crisis, Energy, Environment.
Tags: abby zimet, big oil, carbon pollution, Obama, oil ceos, oil companies, oil industry, oil profits, roger hollander, romney, stock paybacks, tax breaks
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by Abby Zimet
Every hour this year, the five biggest oil companies have made $14,400,000 in profits, or more in one minute than what 96% of American households earn in one year. Each hour they also received over $270,000 in federal tax breaks, or $2.4 billion a year. Romney and the GOP want to double that, even though they already pay under 17% in taxes. ThinkProgress created a great chart tracking their money and pollutants over one day.
Obama Channels Cheney’s Geopolitical Energy Policy June 21, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, Energy, Environment, Nuclear weapons/power.
Tags: china policy, coal, Dick Cheney, energy, energy policy, energy politics, environment, fracking, gas, geopolitics, haliburton, hudro-fracking, michael t. klare, nuclear, Obama policy, offshore drilling, oil, oil exploration, oil industry, roger hollander
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Roger’s note: Back in the fall of 2008, after the election and before the inauguration, I wrote an essay entitled “Plus ça change you can believe in.” Obama has not disappointed this cynical prediction. I would not have thought that he would have out Bushed Bush on warmongering, but there is no surprise that he is loyal to the big money (despite the phony claim of small contributors) that put him in office.
Published on Thursday, June 21, 2012 by TomDispatch.com
Four Ways the President Is Pursuing Cheney’s Geopolitics of Global Energy
As details of his administration’s global war against terrorists, insurgents, and hostile warlords have become more widely known — a war that involves a mélange of drone attacks, covert operations, and presidentially selected assassinations — President Obama has been compared to President George W. Bush in his appetite for military action. “As shown through his stepped-up drone campaign,” Aaron David Miller, an advisor to six secretaries of state, wrote at Foreign Policy, “Barack Obama has become George W. Bush on steroids.”
When it comes to international energy politics, however, it is not Bush but his vice president, Dick Cheney, who has been providing the role model for the president. As recent events have demonstrated, Obama’s energy policies globally bear an eerie likeness to Cheney’s, especially in the way he has engaged in the geopolitics of oil as part of an American global struggle for future dominance among the major powers.
More than any of the other top officials of the Bush administration — many with oil-company backgrounds — Cheney focused on the role of energy in global power politics. From 1995 to 2000, he served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Halliburton, a major supplier of services to the oil industry. Soon after taking office as vice president he was asked by Bush to devise a new national energy strategy that has largely governed U.S. policy ever since.
Early on, Cheney concluded that the global supply of energy was not growing fast enough to satisfy rising world demand, and that securing control over the world’s remaining oil and natural gas supplies would therefore be an essential task for any state seeking to acquire or retain a paramount position globally. He similarly grasped that a nation’s rise to prominence could be thwarted by being denied access to essential energy supplies. As coal was to the architects of the British empire, oil was for Cheney — a critical resource over which it would sometimes be necessary to go to war.
More than any of his peers, Cheney articulated such views on the importance of energy to national wealth and power. “Oil is unique in that it is so strategic in nature,” he told an audience at an industry conference in London in 1999. “We are not talking about soapflakes or leisurewear here. Energy is truly fundamental to the world’s economy. The Gulf War was a reflection of that reality.”
Cheney’s reference to the 1990-1991 Gulf War is particularly revealing. During that conflict, he was the secretary of defense and so supervised the American war effort. But while his boss, President George H.W. Bush, played down the role of oil in the fight against Iraq, Cheney made no secret of his belief that energy geopolitics lay at the heart of the matter. “Once [Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein] acquired Kuwait and deployed an army as large as the one he possesses,” Cheney told the Senate Armed Services Committee when asked to justify the administration’s decision to intervene, “he was clearly in a position to be able to dictate the future of worldwide energy policy, and that gave him a stranglehold on our economy.”
This would be exactly the message he delivered in 2002, as the second President Bush girded himself for the invasion of Iraq. Were Saddam Hussein successful in acquiring weapons of mass destruction, Cheney told a group of veterans that August 25th, “[he] could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East [and] take control of a great portion of the world’s energy supplies.”
For Cheney, the geopolitics of oil lay at the core of international relations, largely determining the rise and fall of nations. From this, it followed that any steps, including war and environmental devastation, were justified so long as they enhanced America’s power at the expense of its rivals.
Through his speeches, Congressional testimony, and actions in office, it is possible to reconstruct the geopolitical blueprint that Cheney followed in his career as a top White House strategist — a blueprint that President Obama, eerily enough, now appears to be implementing, despite the many risks involved.
That blueprint consists of four key features:
1. Promote domestic oil and gas production at any cost to reduce America’s dependence on unfriendly foreign suppliers, thereby increasing Washington’s freedom of action.
2. Keep control over the oil flow from the Persian Gulf (even if the U.S. gets an ever-diminishing share of its own oil supplies from the region) in order to retain an “economic stranglehold” over other major oil importers.
3. Dominate the sea lanes of Asia, so as to control the flow of oil and other raw materials to America’s potential economic rivals, China and Japan.
4. Promote energy “diversification” in Europe, especially through increased reliance on oil and natural gas supplies from the former Soviet republics of the Caspian Sea basin, in order to reduce Europe’s heavy dependence on Russian oil and gas, along with the political influence this brings Moscow.
The first objective, increased reliance on domestic oil and gas, was highlighted in National Energy Policy, the energy strategy Cheney devised for the president in May 2001 in close consultation with representatives of the oil giants. Although mostly known for its advocacy of increased drilling on federal lands, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Cheney Report (as it came to be known) largely focused on the threat of growing U.S. dependence on foreign oil suppliers and the need to achieve greater “energy security” through a damn-the-torpedoes-full-speed-ahead program of accelerated exploitation of domestic energy supplies.
“A primary goal of the National Energy Policy is to add supply from diverse sources,” the report declared. “This means domestic oil, gas, and coal. It also means hydropower and nuclear power.” The plan also called for a concerted drive to increase U.S. reliance on friendly sources of energy in the Western hemisphere, especially Brazil, Canada, and Mexico.
The second objective, control over the flow of oil through the Persian Gulf, was, for Cheney, the principal reason for both the First Gulf War and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Although before that invasion, the president and other top officials focused on Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, his human rights record, and the need to bring democracy to Iraq, Cheney never wavered in his belief that the basic goal was to ensure that Washington would control the Middle Eastern oil jugular.
After Saddam’s ouster and the occupation of Iraq began, Cheney was especially outspoken in his insistence that neighboring Iran be prevented, by force of arms if need be, from challenging American preeminence in the Gulf. “We’ll keep the sea lanes open,” he declared from the deck of an aircraft carrier during maneuvers off the coast of Iran in May 2007. “We’ll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.”
Cheney also focused in a major way on ensuring control over the sea lanes from the Strait of Hormuz, at the mouth of the Persian Gulf (out of which 35% of the world’s tradable oil flows each day) across the Indian Ocean, through the Straits of Malacca, and into the South and East China Seas. To this day, these maritime corridors remain essential for the economic survival of China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, bringing oil and other raw materials to their industries and carrying manufactured goods to their markets abroad. By maintaining U.S. control over these vital conduits, Cheney sought to guarantee the loyalty of America’s key Asian allies and constrain the rise of China. In pursuit of these classic geopolitical objectives, he pushed for an enhanced U.S. naval presence in the Asia-Pacific region and the establishment of a network of military alliances linking Japan, Australia, and India, all aimed at containing China.
Finally, Cheney sought to rein in America’s other major great-power rival, Russia. While his boss, George W. Bush, spoke of the potential for cooperation with Moscow, Cheney, still an energy cold warrior, viewed Russia as a geopolitical competitor and sought every opportunity to diminish its power and influence. He particularly feared that Europe’s growing dependence on Russian natural gas could undermine its resolve to resist aggressive Russian moves in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus.
To counter this trend, Cheney tried to persuade the Europeans to get more of their energy from the Caspian Sea basin by building new pipelines to that region via Georgia and Turkey. The idea was to bypass Russia by persuading Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan to export their gas through these conduits, not those owned by Gazprom, the Russian state-controlled monopoly. When Georgia came under attack from Russian forces in August 2008, after Georgian troops shelled the pro-Moscow enclave of South Ossetia, Cheney was the first senior U.S. official to visit Tbilisi, bringing a promise of $1 billion in reconstruction assistance, as well as an offer of fast-track entry into NATO. France and Germany blocked the move, fearing Moscow might respond with actions that could destabilize Europe.
Obama as Cheney
This four-part geopolitical blueprint, relentlessly pursued by Cheney while vice president, is now being implemented in every respect by President Obama.
When it comes to the pursuit of enhanced energy independence, Obama has embraced the ultra-nationalistic orientation of the 2001 Cheney report, with its call for increased reliance on domestic and Western Hemisphere oil and natural gas — no matter the dangers of drilling in environmentally fragile offshore areas or the use of hazardous techniques like hydro-fracking. In recent speeches, he has boasted of his administration’s efforts to facilitate increased oil and gas drilling at home and promised to speed drilling in new locations, including offshore Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico.
“Over the last three years,” he boasted in his January State of the Union address, “we’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration, and tonight, I’m directing my administration to open more than 75% of our potential offshore oil and gas resources. Right now — right now — American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years… Not only that — last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past 16 years.” He spoke with particular enthusiasm about the extraction of natural gas via fracking from shale deposits: “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.”
Obama has also voiced his desire to increase U.S. reliance on Western Hemisphere energy, thereby diminishing its dependence on unreliable and unfriendly suppliers in the Middle East and Africa. In March 2011, with the Arab Spring gaining momentum, he traveled to Brazil for five days of trade talks, a geopolitical energy pivot noted at the time. In the eyes of many observers, Obama’s focus on Brazil was inextricably linked to that country’s emergence as a major oil producer, thanks to new discoveries in the “pre-salt” fields off its coast in the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, discoveries that could help the U.S. wean itself off Middle Eastern oil but could also turn out to be pollution nightmares. Although environmentalists have warned of the risks of drilling in the pre-salt fields, where a Deepwater Horizon-like blowout is an ever-present danger, Obama has made no secret of his geopolitical priorities. “By some estimates, the oil you recently discovered off the shores of Brazil could amount to twice the reserves we have in the United States,” he told Brazilian business leaders in that country’s capital. “When you’re ready to start selling, we want to be one of your best customers. At a time when we’ve been reminded how easily instability in other parts of the world can affect the price of oil, the United States could not be happier with the potential for a new, stable source of energy.”
At the same time, Obama has made it clear that the U.S. will retain its role as the ultimate guardian of the Persian Gulf sea lanes. Even while trumpeting the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq, he has insisted that the United States will bolster its air, naval, and special operations forces in the Gulf region, so as to remain the preeminent military power there. “Back to the future,” is how Major General Karl R. Horst, chief of staff of the U.S. Central Command, described the new posture, referring to a time before the Iraq War when the U.S. exercised dominance in the region mainly through its air and naval superiority.
While less conspicuous than “boots on the ground,” the expanded air and naval presence will be kept strong enough to overpower any conceivable adversary. “We will have a robust continuing presence throughout the region,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared last October. Such a build-up has in fact been accentuated, in preparation either for a strike on Iranian nuclear facilities, should Obama conclude that negotiations to curb Iranian enrichment activities have reached a dead end, or to clear the Strait of Hormuz, if the Iranians carry out threats to block oil shipping there in retaliation for the even harsher economic sanctions due to be imposed after July 1st.
Like Cheney, Obama also seeks to ensure U.S. control over the vital sea lanes extending from the Strait of Hormuz to the South China Sea. This is, in fact, the heart of Obama’s much publicized policy “pivot” to Asia and his new military doctrine, first revealed in a speech to the Australian Parliament on November 17th. “As we plan and budget for the future,” he declared, “we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region.” A major priority of this effort, he indicated, would be enhanced “maritime security,” especially in the South China Sea.
Central to the Obama plan — like that advanced by Dick Cheney in 2007 — is the construction of a network of bases and alliances encircling China, the globe’s rising power, in an arc stretching from Japan and South Korea in the north to Australia, Vietnam, and the Philippines in the southeast and thence to India in the southwest. When describing this effort in Canberra, Obama revealed that he had just concluded an agreement with the Australian government to establish a new U.S. military basing facility at Darwin on the country’s northern coast, near the South China Sea. He also spoke of the ultimate goal of U.S. geopolitics: a region-embracing coalition of anti-Chinese states that would include India. “We see America’s enhanced presence across Southeast Asia,” both in growing ties with local powers like Australia and “in our welcome of India as it ‘looks east’ and plays a larger role as an Asian power.”
As anyone who follows Asian affairs is aware, a strategy aimed at encircling China — especially one intended to incorporate India into America’s existing Asian alliance system — is certain to produce alarm and pushback from Beijing. “I don’t think they’re going to be very happy,” said Mark Valencia, a senior researcher at the National Bureau of Asian Research, speaking of China’s reaction. “I’m not optimistic in the long run as to how this is going to wind up.”
Finally, Obama has followed in Cheney’s footsteps in his efforts to reduce Russia’s influence in Europe and Central Asia by promoting the construction of new oil and gas pipelines from the Caspian via Georgia and Turkey to Europe. On June 5th, at the Caspian Oil and Gas Conference in Baku, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan read a message from Obama promising Washington’s support for a proposed Trans-Anatolia gas pipeline, a conduit designed to carry natural gas from Azerbaijan across Georgia and Turkey to Europe — bypassing Russia, naturally. At the same time, Secretary of State Clinton traveled to Georgia, just as Cheney had, to reaffirm U.S. support and offer increased U.S. military aid. As during the Bush-Cheney era, these moves are bound to be seen in Moscow as part of a calculated drive to lessen Russia’s influence in the region — and so are certain to elicit a hostile response.
In virtually every respect, then, when it comes to energy geopolitics the Obama administration continues to carry out the strategic blueprint pioneered by Dick Cheney during the two Bush administrations. What explains this surprising behavior? Assuming that it doesn’t represent a literal effort to replicate Cheney’s thinking — and there’s no evidence of that — it clearly represents the triumph of imperial geopolitics (and hidebound thinking) over ideology, principle, or even simple openness to new ideas.
When you get two figures as different as Obama and Cheney pursuing the same pathways in the world — and the first time around was anything but a success — it’s a sign of just how closed and airless the world of Washington really has become. At a time when most Americans are weary of grand ideological crusades, the pursuit of what looks like simple national self-interest — in the form of assured energy supplies — may appear far more attractive as a rationale for military and political involvement abroad.
In addition, Obama and his advisers are no doubt influenced by talk of a new “golden age” of North American oil and gas, made possible by the exploitation of shale deposits and other unconventional — and often dirty — energy resources. According to projections given by the Department of Energy, U.S. reliance on imported energy is likely to decline in the years ahead (though there is a domestic price to be paid for such “independence”), while China’s will only rise — a seeming geopolitical advantage for the United States that Obama appears to relish.
It is easy enough to grasp the appeal of such energy geopolitics for White House strategists, especially given the woeful state of the U.S. economy and the declining utility of other instruments of state power. And if you are prepared to overlook the growing environmental risks of reliance on offshore oil, shale gas, and other unconventional forms of energy, rising U.S. energy output conveys certain geopolitical advantages. But as history suggests, engaging in aggressive global geopolitical confrontations with other determined, well-armed players usually leads to friction, crisis, war, and disaster.
In this regard, Cheney’s geopolitical maneuvering led us into two costly Middle Eastern wars while heightening tensions with both China and Russia. President Obama claims he seeks to build a more peaceful world, but copying the Cheney energy blueprint is bound to produce the exact opposite.
Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. His newest book, The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, has just recently been published. His other books include: Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy and Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependence on Imported Petroleum. A documentary version of that book is available from the Media Education Foundation.
Wolves Fall Prey to Canada’s Rapacious Tar Sands Business September 18, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Animal Protection, Canada, Energy, Environment.
Tags: alberta tar sands, animal rights, Canada, caribou, conservation, ecology, environment, keystone xl, oil industry, paul paquet, peter kent, pipeline, roger hollander, tar sands, wolves
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On the pretext of protecting caribou, wolves are threatened with a cull. But the real ‘conservation’ is of oil industry profits
Wolves are routinely, baselessly and contemptuously blamed for the demise of everything from marmots to mountain caribou in western Canada. Given that attitude, we at Raincoast Conservation Foundation are appalled, though not surprised, by Canada’s proposed strategy to “recover” dwindling populations of boreal forest caribou in northern Alberta’s tar sands territory. Essentially, the plan favours the destruction of wolves over any consequential protection, enhancement or expansion of caribou habitat.
Clearly, the caribou recovery strategy is not based on ecological principles or available science. Rather, it represents an ideology on the part of advocates for industrial exploitation of our environment, which subsumes all other principles to economic growth, always at the expense of ecological integrity. Owing to the breadth of the human niche, which continues to expand via technological progress, the human economy grows at the competitive exclusion of nonhuman species in the aggregate. The real cost of Alberta’s tar sands development, which includes the potential transport of oil by Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines is being borne by wolves, caribou and other wild species.
Consistent with Canada’s now well-deserved reputation as an environmental laggard, the caribou recovery strategy evolved over several years and many politicised iterations, carefully massaged by government pen pushers and elected officials who did their very best to ignore and obscure the advice of consulting biologists and ecologists. So, the government should quit implying that the consultation approach provides a scientifically credible basis for decisions. Apparently, scientists can lead federal Environment Minister Peter Kent to information, but they cannot make him think.
Egged on by a rapacious oil industry, the federal government has chosen to scapegoat wolves for the decline of boreal caribou in a morally and scientifically bankrupt attempt to protect Canada’s industrial sacred cow: the tar sands. Yet, the ultimate reason why the caribou are on the way out is because multiple human disturbances – most pressingly, the tar sands development – have altered their habitat into a landscape that can no longer provide the food, cover and security they need.
The relentless destruction of boreal forest wilderness via tar sands development has conspired to deprive caribou of their life requisites while exposing them to levels of predation they did not evolve with and are incapable of adapting to. Consequently, caribou are on a long-term slide to extinction; not because of what wolves and other predators are doing but because of what humans have already done.
Controlling wolves by killing them or by the use of non-lethal sterilisation techniques is biologically unsound as a long-term method for reducing wolf populations and protecting hoofed animals (ungulates) from predation. Lethal control has a well documented failed record of success as a means of depressing numbers of wolves over time. Killing wolves indiscriminately at levels sufficient to suppress populations disrupts pack social structure and upsets the stability of established territories, allowing more wolves to breed while promoting the immigration of wolves from nearby populations.
At the broadest level, the caribou strategy favours human selfishness at the expense of other species. Implicit is the idea that commercial enterprise is being purchased by the subversion of the natural world, with one set of ethical principles being applied to humans and another to the rest of nature. The strategy panders to the ecologically destructive wants of society by sacrificing the most basic needs of caribou. In doing so, it blatantly contradicts the lesson Aldo Leopold taught us so well: the basis of sound conservation is not merely pragmatic it; is also ethical.
Simply, the caribou strategy is not commensurate with the threats to the species’ survival. What is desperately needed is a caribou strategy designed to solve the problem faster than it is being created. Protecting limited habitat for caribou while killing thousands of wolves as the exploitation of the tar sands continues to expand will not accomplish this goal. Against scientific counsel otherwise, though, politicians have decided that industrial activities have primacy over the conservation needs of endangered caribou (and frankly, all things living).
Tar sands cheerleaders try hard to convince Canadians that we can become an “energy superpower” while maintaining our country’s environment. They are, of course, wrong. Thousands of wolves will be just some of the causalities along the way. Minister Kent and his successors will find more opportunity to feign empathy as Canadians also bid farewell to populations of birds, amphibians and other mammals, including caribou, that will be lost as collateral damage from tar sands development. How much of our country’s irreplaceable natural legacy will Canadians allow to be sacrificed at the altar of oil industry greed?
Paul Paquet is senior scientist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation. An international consultant and lecturer, with numerous university affiliations, he is an internationally recognised authority on mammalian carnivores, especially wolves.
Obama’s Pipeline Quagmire September 13, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Energy, Environment.
Tags: alberta oil, baack obama, bill mckibben, carbon emissions, civil disobedience, dirty oil, evnivronment, keystone xl, oil industry, oil pipeline, pipeline safety, pipeline spills, Ralph Nader, roger hollander, tar sands
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It was the most extraordinary citizen organizing feat in recent White House history. Over 1200 Americans from 50 states came to Washington and were arrested in front of the White House to demonstrate their opposition to a forthcoming Obama approval of the Keystone XL dirty oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf Coast.
Anyone who has tried to mobilize people in open non-violent civil disobedience knows how hard it is to have that many people pay their way to Washington to join a select group of civic champions. The first round of arrestees – about 100 of them – were brought to a jail and kept on cement floors for 52 hours – presumably, said one guard, on orders from above to discourage those who were slated to follow this first wave in the two weeks ending September 3, 2011.
The Keystone XL pipeline project – owned by a consortium of oil companies – is a many faceted abomination. It will, if constructed, take its raw, tar sands carbon down through the agricultural heartland of the United States – through the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers, the great Ogallala aquifer, fragile natural habitats and Native American lands. Major breaks and accidents on pipelines – four of them with loss of human life- have occurred just in the past year from California to Pennsylvania, including a recent, major Exxon/Mobile pipeline rupture which resulted in many gallons of oil spilling into the Yellowstone River.
The Office of Pipeline Safety in the Department of Transportation has been a pitiful rubberstamp patsy for the pipeline industry for 40 years. There are larger objections – a huge contribution to greenhouse gases and further expansion of the destruction of northern Albertan terrain, forests and water – expected to cover an area the size of Florida.
Furthermore, as the Energy Department report on Keystone XL pointed out, decreasing demand for petroleum through advances in fuel efficiency is the major way to reduce reliance on imported oil with or without the pipeline. There is no assurance whatsoever that the refined tar sands oil in Gulf Coast refineries will even get to the motorists here. They can be exported more profitably to Europe and South America.
In ads on Washington, D.C.’s WTOP news station, the industry is claiming that the project will create more than 100,000 jobs. They cannot substantiate this figure. It is vastly exaggerated. TransCanada’s permit application for Keystone XL to the U.S. State Department estimated a “peak workforce of approximately 3,500 to 4,200 construction personnel” to build the pipeline.
The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) oppose the pipeline. In their August 2011 statement they said: “We need jobs, but not ones based on increasing our reliance on Tar Sands oil [...] Many jobs could be created in energy conservation, upgrading the grid, maintaining and expanding public transportation – jobs that can help us reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve energy efficiency.”
The demonstrators before the White House, led by prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben and other stalwarts, focused on President Obama because he and he alone will make the decision either for or against building what they call “North America’s biggest carbon bomb.” He does not have to ask Congress.
Already the State Department, in their latest report, is moving to recommend approval. The demonstrators and their supporters, including leaders of the Native American Dene tribe in Canada and the Lakota nation in the U.S., filled much of the area in front of the White House and Lafayette Square. On September 2, I went down to express my support for their cause. Assistants to Mr. McKibben asked me to speak at the final rally at the square on Saturday. I agreed. At 6:25 p.m. we received an e-mail from Daniel Kessler withdrawing their invitation because of “how packed our schedule already is. We’d love to have Ralph there in any other capacity, including participating in the protest.”
The next day, many of the speakers went way over their allotted five to six minute time slots. Observers told me that there were to be no criticisms of Barack Obama. McKibben wore an Obama pin on the stage. Obama t-shirts were seen out in the crowd. McKibben did not want their efforts to be “marginalized” by criticizing the President, which they expected I would do. He said that “he would not do Obama the favor” of criticizing him.
To each one’s own strategy. I do not believe McKibben’s strategy is up to the brilliance of his tactics involving the mass arrests. (Which by the way received deplorably little mass media coverage).
Obama believes that those demonstrators and their followers around the country are his voters (they were in 2008) and that they have nowhere to go in 2012. So long as environmentalists do not find a way to disabuse him of this impression long before Election Day, they should get ready for an Obama approval of the Keystone XL monstrosity.
’24 Hours of Reality’: Reality Show Worth Watching September 11, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment.
Tags: 24 hours of reality, Al Gore, climate change, climate change deniers, david suzuki, environment, fossil fuels, gas emissions, global warming, greenhouse gas, oil industry, reality tv, roger hollander
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Most reality TV has little to do with the real world. But here’s an online show that will reflect what is happening in and to our world: 24 Hours of Reality will feature 24 presenters in 24 time zones talking about the climate crisis in 13 languages. It starts September 14 at 7 p.m. local time in Mexico City and wraps with a live multimedia presentation from New York City by Nobel laureate and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore at 7 p.m. on September 15.
Climate change is reality. It’s happening in front of our eyes, and massive volumes of research from climate scientists around the world confirm that it will get worse if we fail to do something about it. The facts are no longer in dispute. Greenhouse gas emissions, mainly caused by humans burning fossil fuels, are warming the planet. And the consequences aren’t pretty: health problems caused by pollution; increasing extreme weather events leading to floods, droughts, and storms; shrinking glaciers and related impacts on water supplies and agriculture; insect infestations; conflict over dwindling resources; threats to the survival of plants and animals… the list goes on.
Some people don’t recognize how serious the problem is, delaying efforts to resolve it. And the longer we put off finding and implementing solutions, the harder and costlier it will be to overcome the impacts. Former World Bank chief economist Lord Stern estimated that keeping heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions below levels that would drive climate change to catastrophic levels could cost up to two per cent of global GDP, but failure to act could be economically disastrous.
People accuse me and other environmentalists and scientists of being “alarmist.” But the situation is alarming, and it’s even more alarming that some people ignore it, perhaps believing it will go away – or that the crisis doesn’t even exist. In part, this disconnect with reality is because industrial interests spend billions of dollars sowing doubt and confusion, continually promoting discredited theories – just as they’ve done with issues including the dangers of tobacco smoke and the harmful effects of chlorofluorocarbons on the ozone layer. They tell us climate change doesn’t exist, or that it’s caused by volcanoes or the sun, or that it’s part of a natural cycle – even that God will regulate the climate to the advantage of humans.
But as Al Gore points out, “The deniers may have millions of dollars to spend, but we have a powerful advantage. We have reality.”
That reality includes mountains of published, peer-reviewed research by close to 98 per cent of the world’s climate scientists, as well as real-time observation.
The David Suzuki Foundation’s executive director in Quebec, Karel Mayrand, will deliver the 24 Hours of Reality French presentation at 7 p.m. French Polynesia time (midnight Montreal time). He’ll be joined by two more Canadians, Peter Schiefke in Victoria at 7 p.m. Pacific Time on Sept. 14, and Carl Duivenvoorden from New Brunswick at 7 p.m. Greenland time (6 p.m. New Brunswick) on Sept. 15. They and others will show there is no debate among scientists and knowledgeable people over the existence of human-caused climate change. If there is to be debate it should focus on what to do about it. Doing nothing, as some of the industry shills argue we should, is not a viable option.
Solutions exist, although the cost and severity of the challenge is greater now than in 1988 when climatologists first called for emissions reductions. As more people become aware of the problem and its causes, and learn about the motives of the deniers, it becomes more likely that we’ll find ways to reduce the consequences and put humanity on a path to healthier lives on a healthier planet. We can’t argue with people who deny reality. All we can do is to make sure the voice of reason speaks louder and that those of us who care about humanity join together to find better ways to live on our Earth. Please visit ClimateRealityProject.org to find out how you can tune in to 24 Hours of Reality. Choose the presentation and time zone you want, or take part in the entire event. You can even set up viewing parties with family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. And spread the word. We need to speak up for the future of humanity.
The time to act is now.
A Letter From Prison: Tim DeChristopher Speaks Out August 31, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Environment.
Tags: brad johnson, civil disobedience, Criminal Justice, environment, first amendment, fossil fuel industry, jury trial, oil industry, roger hollander, tim dechristopher
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In the waning days of the Bush presidency, an auction of 130,000 acres of
pristine Utah lands near national parks was organized by the Bureau of
Land Management as a last-minute gift to the oil and gas industry. The
auction was disrupted by climate activist Tim DeChristopher,
then a 27-year-old economics student, who successfully bid for $1.7
million in parcels. Although the Bush leasing plan was found in court
to be flawed and has been withdrawn, today DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison, fined $10,000 for his act of civil disobedience, and taken immediately into custody.
At the sentencing, DeChristopher — a native of West Virginia, where coal companies rule supreme — explained why he was willing to take on the government and the fossil fuel industry, risking a prison sentence that could have been as long as ten years:
I actually have great respect for the rule of
law, because I see what happens when it doesn’t exist, as is the case
with the fossil fuel industry.
The federal prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Huber, sought a
stiff sentence against DeChristopher “‘to afford adequate deterrence to
criminal conduct’ by others,” because “the rule of law is the bedrock of
our civilized society, not acts of ‘civil disobedience’ committed in
the name of the cause of the day.”
“The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future
will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here
today,” DeChristopher responded in his 35-minute address. “And neither
outrage in the hearts of a movement,” writes DeChristopher.
handwritten letter from Tim DeChristopher addressed to Grist’s Jennifer
If I had ever doubted the power of words,
Judge Benson made their importance all too clear at my sentencing last month.
When he sentenced me to two years in prison plus three years probation, he
admitted my offense “wasn’t too bad.” The problem, Judge Benson insisted, was my
“continuing trail of statements” and my lack of regret. Apparently, all he
really wanted was an apology, and for that, two years in prison could have been
avoided. In fact, Judge Benson said that had it not been for the political
statements I made in public, I would have avoided prosecution entirely. As is
generally the case with civil disobedience, it was extremely important to the
government that I come before the majesty of the court with my head bowed and
express regret. So important, in fact, that an apology with proper genuflection
is currently fair trade for a couple years in prison. Perhaps that’s why most
activist cases end in a plea bargain.
Since that seems like such a good deal, some
people are asking why I wasn’t willing to shut my mouth and take it. But perhaps
we should be asking why the government is willing to make such a deal. The most
recent plea bargain they offered me was for as little as 30 days in jail. (I’m
writing this on my 28th day.) So if they wanted to lock me up for two years, why
would they let me walk for an apology and keeping my mouth shut for a while? On
the other hand, if they wanted to sweep this under the rug, why would they cause
such a stir by locking me up? Why do my words make that much of a
With all criminal cases, of which 85 percent
end in a plea bargain, the government has a strong incentive to avoid a trial:
In addition to cutting the expense of a trial, a plea bargain helps concentrate
power in the hands of government officials.
The revolutionaries who founded this country
were deeply distrustful of a concentration of power, so among other precautions,
they established citizen juries as the most important part of our legal system
and insisted upon constitutional right to a jury trial. To avoid this
inconvenience, those seeking concentrated power free from revolutionaries have
minimized the role of citizens in our legal system. They have accomplished this
by restricting what juries can hear, what they can decide upon, and most
importantly, by avoiding jury trials all together. It is now accepted as a basic
fact of our criminal justice system that a defendant who exercises his or her
right to a jury trial will be punished at sentencing for doing so. Transferring
power from citizens to government happens when the role of citizens gets
eliminated in the process.
With civil disobedience cases, however, the
government puts an extra value on an apology. By its very nature, civil
disobedience is an act whose message is that the government and its laws are not
the sole voice of moral authority. It is a statement that we the citizens
recognize a higher moral code to which the law is no longer aligned, and we
invite our fellow citizens to recognize the difference. A government truly of
the people, for the people, and by the people is not threatened by citizens
issuing such a challenge. But government whose authority depends on an ignorant
or apathetic citizenry is threatened by every act of open civil disobedience, no
matter how small. To regain that tiny piece of authority, the government either
has to respond to the activist’s demands, or get the activist to back down with
a public statement of regret. Otherwise, those little challenges to the moral
authority of government start to add up.
Over the last couple hundred years of
quelling dissent, the government has learned a few things about maintaining
power. Sometimes it seems that the government has learned more from our social
movement history than we as activists have. Their willingness to let a direct
action off with a slap on the wrist while handing out two years for political
statements comes from their understanding of the power of an individual. They
know that one person, or even a small group, cannot have enough of a direct
impact on our corporate giants to really alter things in our economy. They know
that a single person can’t have a meaningful direct impact on our political
system. But our modern government is dismantling the First Amendment because
they understand the very same thing our founding fathers did when they wrote it:
What one person can do is to plant the seeds of love and outrage in the hearts
of a movement. And if those hearts are fertile ground, those seeds of love and
outrage will grow into a revolution.
Over 160 Arrested in Ongoing Civil Disobedience Against Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline August 23, 2011Posted by rogerhollander in Energy, Environment.
Tags: alberta tar sands, amy goodman, api, bill mckibben, cindy schild, civil disobedience, Democracy Now, environment, environmental activists, gas emissions, global warming, greenhouse gas, jim hansen, keystone xl, oil industry, oil pipeline, rick perry, roger hollander, sydney parker, tar sands
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- A Debate: Should the U.S. Approve TransCanada’s Massive Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline?
- Critics Dub Planned Puerto Rico Pipeline the “Death Route” for Alleged Threat to Environment, Public Health
- Bill McKibben: From Storms to Droughts, Devastating Extreme Weather Linked to Human-Caused Climate Change
- The Fight over Coal Mining is a “Fight About Democracy”: New Documentary with Robert Kennedy, Jr. Chronicles Campaign to Halt Mountaintop Removal
AMY GOODMAN: Fifty-two environmental activists were arrested Monday in front of the White House as part of an ongoing protest now underway being called—it’s calling on the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed 1,500-mile pipeline would deliver tar sands oil 1,700 miles from Canada to refineries in Texas. Demonstrators are calling on Obama to reject a permit for the pipeline and instead focus on developing clean energy.
An estimated 2,000 people have signed up to hold sit-ins and commit other acts of civil disobedience outside the White House every day for the next two weeks. More than 162 people have been arrested since Saturday. Among those arrested was prominent environmental activist Bill McKibben. He and 65 others were released Monday after spending 48 hours in jail. Dr. Sydney Parker of Maryland was arrested Sunday.
DR. SYDNEY PARKER: We are here because this is not just an environmental issue, it’s also a very big health issue. And that’s why we’ve come out today, and that’s why we’re so committed. So, personally, I have never been arrested before. I’m not—you know, I don’t do this for fun. I’m here because I think it is such an important issue that it really demands this kind of action, and it demands that level of commitment from myself.
AMY GOODMAN: Also headed to Washington to join the protest are indigenous First Nations communities in Canada and landowners along the Keystone XL pipeline’s planned six-state route from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.
An editorial in Sunday’s New York Times joined in calling on the State Department to reject the pipeline. It noted the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production.
Meanwhile, oil industry backers of the project are emphasizing what they say are the economic benefits of the $7 billion proposal. Republican Congress Member Ted Poe, whose home state of Texas hosts the refineries that would receive the tar sands oil, urged President Obama to back the pipeline.
REP. TED POE: To me, an easy choice for this administration: either they can force Americans to continue to rely on unfriendly foreign countries for our energy, like Venezuela and the Middle Eastern dictators, by depriving Americans of a reliable source of oil at a time when gas prices are around $4, or they can work with our friends in the north to supply over 1.4 million barrels of oil per day. Pipelines are the proven and safe, efficient source of energy. Best of all, this project creates thousands of jobs at a time when unemployment in this country is 9.2 percent.
AMY GOODMAN: As the Obama administration remains undecided on the Keystone XL pipeline, we turn now to one of the leading environmentalists opposed to its construction, Bill McKibben, from Washington, D.C., just released from jail after spending two nights there along with others as they kicked off the pipeline protests, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org. His latest book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.
Bill, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain why you were arrested.
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, we really felt like this was the issue, Amy, the best chance for the President to make the statement he hasn’t really made so far in his administration about the fact that we’ve got to get off oil, that we don’t need one more huge source of oil pouring in, instead we need to make the tough decision that we’re going to try and power our lives in new ways. And so, there are people flooding into D.C. from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, lining up to get arrested over the next couple of weeks. It’s pretty powerful to see.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill, last week I asked Cindy Schild of the American Petroleum Institute why her group and TransCanada are pushing so hard for the pipeline. She denied having any financial interests in having the project approved, saying API is looking out for the country’s “energy security.” This is an excerpt of what she had to say.
CINDY SCHILD: API doesn’t have a financial interest in the pipeline. I mean, we’re looking out for, again, energy security, national security. We also see supply flexibility and reliability benefits to being able to bring the third-largest resource base from Canada, and our number one trading partner, down to our largest refining center in the Gulf.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s the spokesperson for American Petroleum Institute. Bill McKibben, who stands to benefit from this project?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, they may not have any—they may not have—you know, the institute, whatever it is, may not have a financial interest, but the oil industry sure does. There’s a couple of trillion dollars worth of sludge sitting up there that they desperately want to sell. That’s why they’re lobbying like crazy to get Washington to approve this thing. But, you know, I mean, let’s be serious. This is the second-largest pool of carbon on earth. America’s foremost climatologist and NASA scientist, Jim Hansen, said a few weeks ago, if we begin tapping into this, it’s—and I quote— “essentially game over for the climate,” unquote. I don’t know what more one more needs to say about security than that. I’m not quite sure what kind of world, you know, what kind of security they’re talking about, once we push global warming past whatever tipping points remain.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you feel are the problems with the tar sands, and exactly what route this will take, where it will go, the pipeline.
BILL McKIBBEN: So, the problems fall into two categories, really. One is along the pipeline. Start in Alberta, where it’s an environmental debacle. They’ve scraped off huge—I mean, when I say “huge,” I mean huge; this tar sands covers an area the size of the United Kingdom—scraped off huge amounts of boreal forest, wrecked native lands and native lives, which is why indigenous people have been at the core of this organizing effort. Now they’re proposing to stick it in a pipeline and send it 1,700 miles to Texas. The 1,700 miles goes through some of the most sensitive and beautiful and important agricultural land in this country. It crosses the Ogalalla Aquifer, a source of water for 20 million people, one of the great pools of fresh water on the planet.
You know, I mean, the precursor, small precursor pipeline of this thing has had 12 leaks in a year. You know, part of our job here is to prevent a terrestrial BP spill, OK? But even if all that oil makes it safely to Texas, OK, every drop of it that didn’t spill into the land or water is going to spill into the atmosphere. If we burn that oil, we increase dramatically the amount of global warming gases in the atmosphere. And after a year that’s just seen the highest temperatures ever recorded on this planet, after a year we’ve seen incredible weather extremes of all kinds, that’s just folly. You listen to the senator from Texas, and you want to say to the guy, “Have you noticed that your state is in the worst drought—worse than the Dust Bowl—the worst drought ever recorded? Get real!”
And that’s why—it’s why it’s so great that there are people just showing up at the White House, saying, “President Obama, you can actually block this thing. You don’t have to ask Congress a thing. It’s up to you. You can simply say, ‘No, we’re not going to give the permit for this dog of a project. We’re, for once, really going to stand up.’”
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of Texas politicians, Bill McKibben, I wanted to play a comment of Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, who recently claimed global warming is a hoax. This is what Perry said at a news conference in New Hampshire.
GOV. RICK PERRY: The issue of global warming has been politicized. I think that there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. And I don’t think, from my perspective, that I want America to be engaged in spending that much money on still a scientific theory that has not been proven and, from my perspective, is more and more being put into question.
AMY GOODMAN: That was presidential candidate Perry, the governor of Texas. Bill McKibben?
BILL McKIBBEN: Rick Perry’s response to the drought so far has been to have a statewide day of prayer. Now, I’m a Methodist Sunday school teacher, so I’m completely down with prayer. That’s good. But in most theologies, prayer works a little better if you aren’t at the same time trying to think of every policy you can do to make matters worse. It’s astonishing that someone is able to make George Bush look relatively smart about scientific things. The Governor is completely wrong, of course, about the science. It’s not only strong, it grows stronger with every passing heat wave and every year of record temperature. There’s no scientific doubt.
The only reason that anybody is even considering building this pipeline is because it’s going to make a few big corporations an immense amount of money. And that’s why those corporations and the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are lobbying like crazy for it. We don’t have the money to compete with those guys. All we have, the only alternative currency we have, is our bodies. And that’s what we’re using.
It was interesting to be in jail this weekend and reflect—listen to some of the people on the cell block reflecting on the fact that the last time they were, you know, lying on the ground like this was in some church basement while they were out campaigning for Barack Obama in that fevered fall of 2008. We’re incredibly hopeful that if the President does the right thing here, it will remind a lot of us why we were so enthusiastic about him and send a real jolt of electricity through people that are a little, frankly, discouraged at the moment.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill, you have been an environmentalist for decades and acted on that, but now you’re getting arrested. Why have you chosen to participate in the civil disobedience? And also, why in front of the White House now, when President Obama is on vacation?
BILL McKIBBEN: Well, we’ll be here when he gets back, too. We’re staying for two weeks, every day. This is the first real civil disobedience of this scale in the environmental movement in ages—I mean, as long as I can recall. And even before he gets back, I’m virtually certain they’ve established a phone connection between the White House and Martha’s Vineyard. I’m pretty sure he knows we’re there, because everybody else seems to. When we came out of jail, they handed me that New York Times editorial, one of the strongest editorials I’ve ever seen in the paper, just saying, “Mr. President, block this pipeline.” I think the message is getting through.
And I think the message needs to get through, because this is one place where President Obama has no obstacles to acting. Congress isn’t in the way. He has no obstacles to acting and no excuse for not acting. It will be the biggest test for him, environmentally, between now and the next election. It’s emerged as the single, premier environmental issue right now, that people from every organization and every group are coming to Washington to help with. And the good news is that after trying to treat us pretty harshly in order to deter this protest from happening, the police are now backing off under orders from a judge, and so the subsequent three waves of arrestees have been treated much more civilly than we were. And so, I think that it’s going to only grow.
AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, the alliance of environmentalists and labor unions that is growing right now, can you talk about the significance of this?
BILL McKIBBEN: Absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein just tweeted, “This is a major breakthrough in green+labour alliance: 2 big unions oppose.”
BILL McKIBBEN: She was talking about the fact that two of the big unions, last week, came out against this pipeline, even though the argument for it, theoretically, is that it’s going to create jobs. It will create a few. You can’t build a pipeline this big without, but at nowhere near the number that the proponents have been claiming, as it turns out. More to the point, by continuing our addiction to oil, it will send billions of dollars a day north into Canada and not give us the incentive that we need to put people to—far, far, far more people to work doing the wind and solar work that will actually repower our lives. That’s where the jobs are, and those jobs won’t be wrecking the future.
AMY GOODMAN: We have just 15 seconds, but, Bill McKibben, you’re right there in front of the White House. You and a number of students waged a campaign to get solar panels put back on the White House roof, that President Reagan had taken down. Then there was a big announcement of the victory, that President Obama had agreed. But they haven’t been put up.
BILL McKIBBEN: No, we were looking closely, as we were being arrested, and there’s no sign of them up there on the roof. But you know what? President Obama, right now that’s job number two. Job number one is blocking this incredible pipeline. Let’s get the nation’s house in order, and then it would be good if you’d go to work on your own, too.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, thanks so much for being with us, spokesperson for TarSandsAction.org.
BILL McKIBBEN: Thank you so much.
AMY GOODMAN: Just came out of jail after two days, nonviolently protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. He is the founder of 350.org.
Tags: alberta tar sands, Canada, canadian government, carbon emissions, clean energy, environment, greenhouse gas, oil industry, oil sands, roger hollander, tar sands, terry macalister
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Friends of the Earth Europe claims ministers have attempted to undermine European fuel legislation that would affect exports
The Canadian government has been accused of an “unprecedented” lobbying effort involving 110 meetings in less than two years in Britain and Europe in a bid to derail new fuel legislation that could hit exports from its tar sands.
Mining trucks carry loads of oil-laden sand in Canada. “The overriding message,” say campaigners against the tar sands, “is that… the dirtiest fuel on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”(Photograph: Jeff Mcintosh/AP)
The allegation comes from Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), which claims Ottawa ministers have attempted to mislead European decision-makers by underplaying the carbon-heavy nature of their crude in assessing new petrol standards.
Canada is worried that proposed European legislation would penalise imports of oil derived from its tar sands and so restrict access to the European market for Canadian oil. This might in turn embolden US legislators to do similar. To prevent this, FoEE says that Ottawa has been conducting an intensive lobbying campaign aimed at preventing the British government and the European commission from watering down the legislation.
“The Canadian government must disclose the genuine GHG [greenhouse gas] footprint of tar sands and stop making false promises. It should take serious measures to address the negative nature of tar sands,” recommends FoEE in a new report entitled Canada’s dirty lobby diary – undermining the EU fuel quality directive.
The lobbying effort, which includes dozens of meetings between Canadian and British government “representatives” and oil executives, was triggered by the release of a consultation document in July 2009 by the European commission, which attempted to definitively assess the “well-to-wheels” carbon intensity of different oils.
The document attributed a “default” carbon value for traditional fuels of 85.8g of carbon dioxide per mega joule of energy for traditional oil and 107gCO2/MJ for fuel derived from tar sands.
The Canadians have managed to delay the EU’s original deadline of January 2011 for confirming baseline default values despite new peer-reviewed studies to support the European position.
Darek Urbaniak, extractives campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “It is unprecedented that a government of one of the most developed countries can devise and implement a strategy that involves undermining independent science and deliberate misleading of its international partners.”
“The Canadians are asking for further research and further delays. This tactic is reminiscent of the tobacco industry in its attempt to delay action on health,” said the FoEE report.
Relatively little fuel from the Alberta tar sands currently ends up in Britain or on the continent, but the Canadians have made clear their real concern is that European legislation will encourage the US to take a tougher line.
A pan-European oil sands advocacy plan was established by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade last year. The main aims were to protect and advance Canadian interests in Europe and to ensure “non-discriminatory market access for oil sands-derived products”, according to documents seen by FoEE.
The Canadians are also said to have set up a special lobbying team in London and identified Shell and BP – two big tar sands investors – as “like-minded allies” in the struggle to have tar sands accepted.
Shell’s chief executive, Peter Voser, made clear last week at the company’s half yearly financial results that tar sands was one of the key areas of the business that was delivering production growth – both now and more in future. BP has also made no secret of its determination to pursue its interests in Alberta.
But FoEE is angry because it believes the Canadians are deliberately marketing tar sands as an environmentally friendly product by making references to initiatives – such as carbon capture and storage – to reduce the CO2 emissions. During the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Canadian government spoke out about the safer operations in Alberta while the country’s democratic credentials have been compared with less savoury regimes where oil is extracted, argues FoEE.
“The overriding message is that Canada is not exporting dirty oil, but clean energy. One of the dirtiest fuels on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”
The Canadian government was contacted by the Guardian but did not comment.
Corporate Criminals – Chevron June 5, 2010Posted by rogerhollander in Ecuador, Environment, Latin America.
Tags: bp, burma, chevron, corporate criminals, Ecuador, environment, mynamar, oil industry, petroleum, pollution, roger hollander, royal dutch shell, slave labor
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BP is not the worst criminal conspiracy dressed as an oil company. Royal Dutch Shell (more later) and Chevron are much worse.
The Crimes of Chevron
Slavery, Vandalism, Murder by Proxy
Chevron is partnered with the Myanmar (Burma) military junta in building a gas pipeline project. Finding workers for this huge project was no problem – the Myanmar military simply impressed the indigenous people into slave labor gangs.
The recruiting system is simple. The junta burns their villages to the ground, herds the population at gunpoint into relocation (concentration) camps, doesn’t allow them to grown their own food and tells them the only way to eat is to work. They work clearing the forest, as porters (slaves are cheaper than trucks), and sex slaves for the project engineers. It should be noted that Chevron does not directly impress the workers. The Burma junta does the “hiring,” Chevron just profits from the arrangement. Chevron nobly claim they are providing “jobs” for the people in the region. Chevron neglects to note they are non-paying jobs with benefits that include torture and rape. Some reports say the workers are being paid a token for their forced labor. Burmese citizens who protest the pipeline project are murdered by the government. (See also Burma Digest about oppression in Karen State, End Human Trafficking on Chevron’s link to forced labor, the Free Burma Rangers, and Rebecca Tarbottom on the True Cost of Chevron in Burma)
In Ecuador, Chevron’s attack on indigenous people involves the destruction of their land and the poisoning of their rivers. When shareholders met last week in Houston, Chevron used the Houston police department to forcibly exclude shareholders who disagreed with management on its conduct in Ecuador from attending the annual meeting.
Chevron is an American corporation with headquarters in California. In California slavery is punished by at least three years in prison per count. What Chevron dumps in the Amazon River violates the Clean Water Act (if it were done in the US), it violates Ecuador law too.
Chevron has revenues of $167 billion last year and is the third largest business in the United States. Their CEO made nearly $9 million last year, 85% of it from non-salary bonuses and options.
Alberta’s Tar Sands Make Canada a Climate Criminal December 1, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment.
Tags: alberta tar sands, bp, Canada, Canada Conservatives, canada environment, canada government, canada oil, canada reputation, climate control, copenhagen, george monbiot, global warming, greenhouse gases, harper government, kyoto, kyoto protocol, oil industry, roger hollander, shell oil, Stephen Harper
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Canada’s image lies in tatters. It is now to climate what Japan is to whaling
by George Monbiot
When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world’s peacekeeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbour, decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country’s government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee’s tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I’ve broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.
So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.
Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.
In 2006 the new Canadian government announced it was abandoning its targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto protocol. No other country that had ratified the treaty has done this. Canada was meant to have cut emissions by 6% between 1990 and 2012. Instead they have already risen by 26%.
It is now clear that Canada will refuse to be sanctioned for abandoning its legal obligations. The Kyoto protocol can be enforced only through goodwill: countries must agree to accept punitive future obligations if they miss their current targets. But the future cut Canada has volunteered is smaller than that of any other rich nation. Never mind special measures; it won’t accept even an equal share. The Canadian government is testing the international process to destruction and finding that it breaks all too easily. By demonstrating that climate sanctions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, it threatens to render any treaty struck at Copenhagen void.
After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007, it singlehandedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations. After the climate talks in Poland in December 2008, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country that had done most to disrupt the talks. The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world’s 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th.
In June this year the media obtained Canadian briefing documents which showed the government was scheming to divide the Europeans. During the meeting in Bangkok in October, almost the entire developing world bloc walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking, as they were so revolted by his bullying. Last week the Commonwealth heads of government battled for hours (and eventually won) against Canada’s obstructions. A concerted campaign has now begun to expel Canada from the Commonwealth.
In Copenhagen next week, this country will do everything in its power to wreck the talks. The rest of the world must do everything in its power to stop it. But such is the fragile nature of climate agreements that one rich nation – especially a member of the G8, the Commonwealth and the Kyoto group of industrialised countries – could scupper the treaty. Canada now threatens the wellbeing of the world.
Why? There’s a simple answer: Canada is developing the world’s second largest reserve of oil. Did I say oil? It’s actually a filthy mixture of bitumen, sand, heavy metals and toxic organic chemicals. The tar sands, most of which occur in Alberta, are being extracted by the biggest opencast mining operation on earth. An area the size of England, comprising pristine forests and marshes, will be be dug up – unless the Canadians can stop this madness. Already it looks like a scene from the end of the world: the strip-miners are creating a churned black hell on an unimaginable scale.
To extract oil from this mess, it needs to be heated and washed. Three barrels of water are used to process one barrel of oil. The contaminated water is held in vast tailings ponds, some so toxic that the tar companies employ people to scoop dead birds off the surface. Most are unlined. They leak organic poisons, arsenic and mercury into the rivers. The First Nations people living downstream have developed a range of exotic cancers and auto-immune diseases.
Refining tar sands requires two to three times as much energy as refining crude oil. The companies exploiting them burn enough natural gas to heat six million homes. Alberta’s tar sands operation is the world’s biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions. By 2020, if the current growth continues, it will produce more greenhouse gases than Ireland or Denmark. Already, thanks in part to the tar mining, Canadians have almost the highest per capita emissions on earth, and the stripping of Alberta has scarcely begun.
Canada hasn’t acted alone. The biggest leaseholder in the tar sands is Shell, a company that has spent millions persuading the public that it respects the environment. The other great greenwasher, BP, initially decided to stay out of tar. Now it has invested in plants built to process it. The British bank RBS, 70% of which belongs to you and me (the government’s share will soon rise to 84%), has lent or underwritten £8bn for mining the tar sands.
The purpose of Canada’s assault on the international talks is to protect this industry. This is not a poor nation. It does not depend for its economic survival on exploiting this resource. But the tar barons of Alberta have been able to hold the whole country to ransom. They have captured Canada’s politics and are turning this lovely country into a cruel and thuggish place.
Canada is a cultured, peaceful nation, which every so often allows a band of Neanderthals to trample over it. Timber firms were licensed to log the old-growth forest in Clayaquot Sound; fishing companies were permitted to destroy the Grand Banks: in both cases these get-rich-quick schemes impoverished Canada and its reputation. But this is much worse, as it affects the whole world. The government’s scheming at the climate talks is doing for its national image what whaling has done for Japan.
I will not pretend that this country is the only obstacle to an agreement at Copenhagen. But it is the major one. It feels odd to be writing this. The immediate threat to the global effort to sustain a peaceful and stable world comes not from Saudi Arabia or Iran or China. It comes from Canada. How could that be true?
George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com