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[l] at 5/20/22 4:54pm
During a virtual meeting on May 11, the public had an opportunity to comment on a proposed floating LNG export facility 16 miles off the coast of Grand Isle, Louisiana, a barrier island that was badly crippled last year by Hurricane Ida and is still recovering. Proposed by New Fortress Energy (NFE), the planned facility will be a floating offshore export terminal that would treat, liquefy, and store methane gas before loading it onto ships headed abroad. If realized, the terminal could export up to the equivalent of 145 billion cubic feet of the fossil fuel per year. Its application comes shortly after the Biden administration committed in March “to make available up to 15 billion cubic meters additional LNG this year” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Europe’s attempts to reduce dependency on Russian gas. The federal agencies responsible for the initial permitting phase of the project explained that this is the first of many opportunities that the public will have to weigh in on this complex project. Matthew Meacham, a representative from the United States Coast Guard (USCG), and Yvette Fields, Director of the Maritime Administration office of Deepwater Port Licensing (MARAD), stressed in their opening remarks that neither agency is “a proponent or opponent for this proposed New Fortress Energy, Louisiana, FLNG project or any other deepwater port application.” But some of the meetings participants — including Wilma Subra, the technical advisor for the Louisiana Environmental Action Network — were left questioning the authenticity of that claim. In his opening remarks at the beginning of the meeting, Meacham recognized two third-party team members,” Hollaway Environmental + Communications Services and EDGE Engineering and Science, which he said are “assisting us on the New Fortress Energy, Louisiana, FLNG project.” He then turned the mic over to Connor Stokes of Hollaway to moderate the public meeting.   Both Hollaway and EDGE, which are working on behalf of the permitting agencies, also offer services to companies like New Fortress Energy to help them through the permitting process. Subra, who has commented on countless permit applications across the country for decades, told me this was the first public comment meeting she has participated in that was moderated by a third party. She thinks that the permitting agencies’ use of these third-party companies represents a conflict of interest due to the fact that these consultants specialize in working with companies like NFE. On a call after the meeting, Subra also described the handling of the meeting as blatantly biased toward the permit applicant. “Usually speakers are informed of the length of time they will have to speak, which is usually five or ten minutes, and in a lot of cases you can come back after everyone gets a chance to comment and give the rest of your comments if you have more to say,” she said. But in this case, speakers only learned how much time they had to comment when Stokes began moderating the session. Each participant was allotted three minutes to comment and could speak a second time for an additional three minutes after all the participants who wanted to comment had done so.  “Not knowing in advance how long you can speak handicaps participants’ ability to prepare concise comments,” Subra explained.  During the meeting, nine people commented on the project and only a few of them opted to speak a second time. As a result, almost half of the two hours allotted for the meeting were used as a placeholder in case anyone joined the meeting late and wanted to comment. Despite the abundance of time that could have been made available to participants, Stokes silenced Subra’s audio mid-sentence when her three minutes were up. After abruptly cutting off Subra, Stokes adjourned the meeting for a ten-minute break. Subra was unable to rejoin the meeting and use her additional three minutes because she was at the hospital tending to her husband.  Stokes later let Louisiana State Rep. Joseph Orgeron, the only person who spoke in favor of the project, go over his allotted three minutes. Instead of chiding Orgeron for exceeding his time as Stokes did with Subra, he thanked Orgeron for his comments.  “The moderator’s biases were astounding,” David Levy, owner of Petrotechnologies and an acting member of Louisiana’s Oilfield Site Restoration Commission, said on a call after the meeting. During the meeting, Levy stated that he was against permitting the floating LNG project until all of the thousands of methane-emitting abandoned wells in Louisiana are plugged and secured by the oil and gas industry.  I asked MARAD who had decided how long the comment period would be, and who had decided not to share that information in advance with those who registered to participate in the meeting. Brooke Brzozowske with MARADs Office of Public Affairs told me that she was working on getting answers to my questions, but failed to answer them by my deadline or give an indication of when I could expect a response.  Some of the other concerns expressed by those opposing the project were that the permitting agencies were not taking into account the cumulative impacts of rapidly expanding the LNG export industry in the Gulf of Mexico, and whether or not the government will be able to ensure the exported LNG goes to Europe, to help the continent’s transition away from Russian gas after the country’s invasion of Ukraine. In addition, Subra, Scott Eustis, community science director with Healthy Gulf, and others brought up that the project’s proposed location puts it in the bullseye of storm systems passing through the Gulf. Some questioned workers’ safety on a floating facility during extreme weather, and what kind of an impact extended power outages might have on it. These aren’t arbitrary concerns. Shell’s floating LNG facility off the coast of Australia has been mired with problems nearly since it first shipped cargo in 2019. Last December, a fire onboard caused a power outage that could have led to “catastrophic failure” of the hull and did cause the floating LNG facility to shut down production for the second time in less than two years. The incident has led some to question if sustained power outages — such as those caused by a hurricane — could lead to catastrophic failure of NFE’s proposed floating LNG facility too. Not only do environmental advocates believe the comment process was biased during the public meeting, some also believe that the public has not been given adequate notice to comment meaningfully. A notice of intent regarding the FLNG project was published on April 26, and the project’s website states that public comment closes a month later, on May 26. Kelsey Crane, a policy advocate with Earthworks, told the permitting agencies that Earthworks was submitting a letter signed by 21 organizations requesting the comment period be extended an additional 30 days. The 30 days initially allotted to submit comments is not an adequate amount of time for the general public to review some 5,000 pages of technical documents submitted related to this project, the letter states. It also calls on the permitting agencies to “meaningfully consult and engage with Indigenous nations in Louisiana.” It also points out that “sufficient language translation has not been provided. The proposed project is off the coast of Grand Isle in Jefferson Parish, where around 2.5% of the residents speak a non-English language at home as their primary language.”   During the May 11 meeting, a few project opponents pointed out that many people who would likely want to comment are still recovering from Hurricane Ida, and as a result, were less likely to know about this meeting. Listening to them prompted me to reach out to Chief Shirell Parfait-Dardar of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe while the meeting was underway. She has been an active and outspoken advocate for her tribe and for transitioning off of fossil fuels, but her home was one of many destroyed by that storm, and she had not been aware of the project or the meeting. Grand Isle, Louisiana, on September 22, 2021, weeks after Hurricane Ida damaged buildings and other infrastructure on the barrier island. Credit: Julie Dermansky  She joined the virtual meeting while it was already underway and expressed displeasure that the tribes in south Louisiana were not notified about the opportunity to weigh in on the LNG project. On a call afterward, she thanked me for alerting her about the meeting. This project is practically in our backyard,” she said, adding that she is not surprised no one bothered to notify her, despite her recent service on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Climate Task Force. “Being left out of the conversation is a continuation of the systemic injustices that Indigenous communities and Indigenous peoples have been dealing with since European contact. She also expressed disappointment with President Biden’s pledge to expedite approval of LNG projects so as to expand LNG exports to Europe and end its reliance on Russian energy. Parfait-Dardar stressed that expanding the capacity to export LNG will increase the demand for natural gas, which can only be met with an increased number of wells being drilled. These wells will further impact communities — disproportionately made up of Indigenous people and other communities of color — who live near fossil fuel drilling and production sites.  “We need to stop depending on fossil fuel altogether and invest in clean energy technologies available, and improve upon them,” Parfait-Dardar said. “We should not be destroying our planet to produce energy, no matter what country that energy is supplied to.” However, oil and gas industry executives including Chairman and CEO of NFE, Wes Edens, have welcomed the White House’s warm embrace of the LNG industry. Edens recently painted the company’s floating LNG project as helping to end Europe’s dependency on Russian gas, echoing the Biden administration’s framing about boosting LNG supplies to Europe. “With rapid deployment, this project can play a significant role in supporting our nation’s commitment to our European allies and their energy security as well as support our efforts to reduce emissions and energy poverty around the world,” Edens said in a statement.  New Fortress Energy touts itself as at the forefront of ushering in clean energy. The company’s site offers up classic climate science denial talking points on a fact page, claiming that replacing other fossil fuel use with natural gas will help move the world toward net-zero emissions, and that natural gas is a “simply clean” energy source despite climate scientists showing otherwise. While natural gas burns cleaner than coal, the advantage of using it can be negated by the methane emitted in its production and transport. Methane, the main component of natural gas, heats the planet at a much greater rate than carbon dioxide in the short term. The company claims its proposed floating LNG facility could be online in 2023, calling it the “first fast LNG facility” in part because it’s designed to hook into an existing pipeline network that will transport natural gas from areas in the United States that produce the fossil fuel to this proposed floating export terminal.  A 30-day extension of the comment period, if granted by MARAD, would mark the beginning of potential delays for this project. Again citing the need for Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian gas, Edens, New Fortress Energy’s CEO, has said, “it is vitally important to fast track LNG production in the United States.” I asked MARAD if the comment period would be extended past May 26, when it is currently set to close, and if not, why not? Despite giving the agency over a week to respond, I have yet to receive an answer. Information on how to submit a comment is available on MARAD’s site. Environmental advocates hope that raising public awareness of NFE’s latest project could result in a similar pushback and permit withdrawal like what happened to another LNG facility the company proposed to build in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. NFE withdrew that proposal shortly before announcing its plans for a floating LNG facility in Louisiana, after facing intense pushback from climate advocates. The post Environmental Advocates Say Public Comment Is Taking a Back Seat in Biden’s Push to Export More LNG appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 5/20/22 9:53am
Ugandan communities whose lands lie in the pathway of a vast new oil pipeline under development in East Africa have accused French fossil fuel giant TotalEnergies and the Ugandan government of intimidation and poor compensation. A group comprised mainly of smallholder farmers from Kyotera district, southern Uganda, say the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), fronted by Total, has coerced people  into opening bank accounts before rates of compensation have been agreed. EACOP is using compulsory purchase orders to acquire land in Uganda from over 3,600 households (affecting a total of 24,744 people).The group claims that the project developers are reneging on a promise to base compensation for lost crops on higher, updated valuations, leaving them thousands of dollars short of what they expected. They also say the rate of compensation offered for the crops – including coffee and bananas – falls well below amounts offered in other parts of the country. The controversial pipeline will move oil from Uganda’s oilfields in the Albertine region, near the border with Democratic Republic of Congo, over 1,400 kilometres east to the port of Tanga, on the coast of neighbouring Tanzania, from where it will be exported. Environmental groups estimate that the project will “unlock” an additional 34 million tons of planet-heating carbon dioxide each year, more than the annual emissions of Uganda and Tanzania combined. Pressure has been mounting on banks and insurers to shun what is set to d be the world’s longest pipeline with electricity-powered heating, which is required to transport this particularly “waxy” type of oil.This week, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that Marsh, the world’s largest insurance broker, had won the contract for the project, in the face of opposition from within the company. ‘Intimidation’ and ‘Underhand Methods’ Leaders of some 524 households made up of “Project Affected Persons” (or PAPs) have written to Total and local administrators to request a meeting to resolve their grievances. The letter calls on district leaders and EACOP to “end the intimidation and continued underhand methods being used to force us to open bank accounts to receive low compensation”. Robert Brimuye, one of the leaders who drafted the letter on behalf of the group, told DeSmog he was arrested in his village and locked up overnight last October. “I was arrested because of the work I have been doing on the compensation issue,” he said. “ I was accused of sabotaging the government, but I’m not deterred.” . The group says that compensation rates differ between the districts through which the pipeline is being built. A coffee plant in Kyotera was valued at $9, almost two thirds less than in Lwengo, central Uganda, while a banana plant was valued at $7, half as much as in Lwengo. They say an official had taken on board their concerns and advised them not to open bank accounts until these were addressed. But Brimuye says this has not happened, complaining of a lack of transparency. He says the government and Total have failed to explain how the rates were calculated, while many of the people affected had low rates of literacy and could not understand some of the requirements needed for compensation, meaning they could miss out on payments. “We want them to explain why we’re being paid less than people in other areas. And we do not want them to come with figures whose basis we do not know,” he explained. Letters to the authorities are signed on behalf of affected communities by two representatives –  Birumuye and another leader, Mariam Najjagwe — because of the threat of intimidation towards villagers, explained Diana Nabiruma, head of communications at the African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), which is campaigning against the EACOP project. ‘Low Compensation’ Complaints over compensation along the project corridor are commonplace among landowners, many of whom have raised concerns over delayed payments. . In Hoima, Kikuube and Kakumiro, affected communities have all complained of low compensation rates, Nabiruma said. “In compliance with Article 26 of the 1995 Uganda Constitution, the Kyotera district EACOP PAPs should be paid based on updated compensation rates [rather than 2019 valuations]. This will guarantee fair and adequate compensation,” she said. Despite provisions in the Ugandan constitution, communities are often deterred from seeking redress in the courts, since lawsuits prove too costly or run into delays. “In light of this, we hope that other stakeholders such as financial institutions that are interested in the project can hold its proponents accountable,” she said. “The financial institutions should not provide financing for projects that fail to respect PAPs human rights.” .  The construction of the pipeline is due to cost $3.5 billion for Uganda, Tanzania and their partners, Total and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC. EACOP is one of a number of fossil fuel developments Uganda has approved, including the Kabaale Oil refinery, Tilenga and Kingfisher oil development projects. The latter consists of six wells located inside the biodiversity-rich Murchison Falls National Park. The projects jointly hold an estimated six billion barrels of oil reserves, 1.4 billion of which is recoverable. Neither Total nor the Ugandan authorities responded to a request for comment. The post Communities in Path of East Africa Oil Pipeline Allege Intimidation and Unfair Compensation appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 5/18/22 4:44pm
By Amy Westervelt, The Guardian. This story was originally published by the The Guardian and is part of Climate Crimes, a special series by The Guardian and Covering Climate Now focused on investigating how the fossil fuel industry contributed to the climate crisis and lied to the American public. Accused of misleading the public for decades on the promise of plastic recycling, oil and chemical companies are pushing a new idea: “advanced recycling.” Environmental advocates, however, say it’s more of the same old greenwash and litigators hope holding companies accountable for past lies might prevent the spread of a new one. In late April, California attorney general Rob Bonta launched an investigation into ExxonMobil for its role in exacerbating the global plastic pollution crisis. Bonta says he was partly inspired by a 2020 investigation from NPR and Frontline that showed how companies like ExxonMobil, Chevron, Dow, and Dupont were aware of the inefficacy of plastic recycling, yet they still strategized marketing campaigns that told a different story to the public. For oil companies, those campaigns often included removing themselves from the story altogether. Even some climate advocates forget that plastic, which is made from either petroleum or ethane (a byproduct of fracking), is very much part of the climate crisis. Bonta says his investigation started with ExxonMobil because they’ve been a leader in the plastics industry and in the messaging around recycling. A report out last year from the Mindaroo Foundation found that just 100 companies produce 90 percent of the world’s plastic pollution. It pinpointed ExxonMobil as the top producer in the world of single-use plastic. In a statement responding to the investigation, ExxonMobil said it is “focused on solutions” like building the first “commercial-scale advanced recycling technology” and that “meritless allegations like these distract from the important collaborative work that is under way.” But like regular old recycling, “advanced recycling” has so far shown little to no results. Also known as pyrolysis or chemical recycling, the process entails using various chemical processes to turn plastic into other materials. The most common approach is warming plastic at very high heat to turn it into a low-grade fossil fuel, which can then be used either as fuel or as a feedstock for more plastic. The technology is still in its infancy, but early studies have found that like earlier versions of plastic recycling, the “advanced” method is expensive, and that it’s difficult to collect and effectively recycle a wide variety of plastics. It also delivers few environmental benefits, not just because it’s used to create either fuel or more plastic, but also because the process itself is emissions intensive. One study commissioned by plastic manufacturers themselves found that advanced recycling generated more greenhouse gases than either landfilling plastic or burning it. The American Chemistry Council, or ACC, a trade group for the chemical industry, has been pushing advanced recycling since China shut its borders to used plastic in 2018. The group has also been lobbying state governments to exempt their recycling process from various environmental regulations — 18 states have laws on the books that either side-step certain government oversight or designate advanced recycling facilities as eligible for subsidies. It’s part of a strategy former Exxon lobbyist Keith McCoy called “getting ahead of government intervention” in a video interview with the Greenpeace-funded investigative journalism site UnEarthed in 2021. The journalists went undercover as corporate recruiters and got McCoy talking about various lobbying strategies on climate change. “The issue is going to be disposal and recycling of plastics,” McCoy said in previously unpublished portions of the interview that were shared with the Guardian. He also noted that the ACC has been working on this issue “almost exclusively, because [federal regulators] are talking about banning plastics and a lot of it has to do with plastics in the ocean and in waterways.” An ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown, TX. Credit: Roy Luck (CC BY 2.0) A new report out this week from the groups Beyond Plastics and The Last Beach Cleanup found that plastic recycling rates have actually fallen in the United States since the emergence of “advanced recycling” in 2018, from its highest ever point of 9 percent to less than 6 percent today, compared with a 66 percent recycling rate for paper. “They’re finally kind of admitting that recycling hasn’t worked,” Beyond Plastics president Judith Enck said of groups like ACC and its members that have been lobbying against environmental protections. “And it doesn’t work by design. It’s not like they’re surprised by this. They knew all along it wouldn’t work.” And the plastic pollution crisis isn’t likely to let up. As Bonta noted in his investigation, the fossil fuel industry has spurred the expansion of plastic for years to come. “It’s their plan B as we reduce the use of fossil fuels in transportation and buildings,” he said. The International Energy Agency has said this as well, predicting that plastic production, which is forecasted to double by 2040, will be the biggest growth market for the oil industry over the next decade. McCoy noted that oil companies like his former employer ExxonMobil were uniquely suited to handle the increased scrutiny on plastics because they could use the same strategy they have deployed on climate change. “You want to get smart on it, because you know it’s coming,” he said.  Environmental sociologist Rebecca Altman, author of the forthcoming book An Intimate History of Plastics, points to the history of Exxon’s forefather, Standard Oil, as one of the four original companies that created the modern petrochemical industry. Mobil Oil also introduced the plastic grocery bag to American stores. “They really commercialized that and took on the paper bag, which was sort of the last bastion of paper in the U.S. supermarket by the 1970s,” Altman said. That meant Mobil was also entrenched in the various PR battles that the chemical and energy industries were dealing with in the 1970s. “The [petrochemical] industry was really trying to figure out: how do we show our positive value? And the answer was positive advertising and then working behind the scenes on energy policy and dealing with the first wave of environmental legislation,” Altman said. “And then in the 1980s and 1990s you have this big recycling boom.” Bonta says he’d love to see advanced recycling work, but right now it’s just “words on paper.” A 2021 Reuters investigation found several examples of failed advanced recycling programs, noting that out of 30 projects operating around the world, all were either still operating on a modest scale or had shut down, and more than half were years behind schedule on previously announced commercial plans. A report from the Natural Resources Defense Council published in March noted that even when it “works” advanced recycling is not an environmentally friendly solution. Bonta says his investigation will include not only what the industry said about recycling in the past, but also the way it is marketing advanced recycling today. The inquiry may very well broaden to include other companies, or trade groups like the ACC. “We’ll go where the documents lead us,” he said. As to whether the investigation might become a lawsuit, Bonta says that is “absolutely” a possibility. “We’re not investigating just to investigate,” he said. The post Exxon Doubles Down on ‘Advanced Recycling’ Claims That Yield Few Results appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 5/18/22 4:05pm
Major car and airline companies are using adverts that greenwash their business while continuing to push highly polluting products that put the world’s climate goals at risk, DeSmog can reveal. A DeSmog investigation, commissioned by Greenpeace Netherlands, analysed more than a thousand Facebook and Instagram adverts placed by ten well-known European transport brands in the last year The analysis found that car companies – Peugeot, Renault, Citroën, Fiat and Jeep – are touting “green” products and initiatives in the majority of their advertising while simultaneously using ads to push highly polluting vehicles such as SUVs.The car firms promoted battery-powered cars and hybrids in over two thirds of their adverts. This low-carbon image is out of step with the reality of fleet production figures – both current and projected – which reveal a business model out of step wedded to sales of fossil-fuel powered vehicles.The study revealed that airline companies, by contrast, mostly chose to ignore the climate crisis altogether in their advertising. “Lower-carbon” flights featured in less than ten percent of industry ads, which chose instead to incentivise air travel with deals, low-cost offers and promotions. Despite green pledges, all the companies analysed – both cars and airlines – have lobbied against measures to reduce emissions, either directly or through industry groups.“European car and airline companies are using PR strategies like these to sell products that burn vast amounts of oil,” explains Silvia Pastorelli from Greenpeace. “These adverts are dangerous because they reassure consumers, when they are actually making choices that increase the likelihood of devastating climate impacts,” she says. Misleading’ car adverts Car manufacturers are responsible for nine percent of global emissions, according to recent analysis by Greenpeace that takes into account vehicle manufacturing and disposal. And despite decades of warnings, almost all car companies are moving far too slowly towards phasing out conventional cars.DeSmog’s research found that while a majority of companies’ adverts promoted lower-carbon vehicles, this was out of proportion to companies’ actual sales.The companies’ sales of lower-emissions vehicles ranged between 12.8 and 30 percent of overall vehicle sales in Europe, where the adverts analysed were targeted. (Worldwide, sales of low-emission cars are even lower.)  These sales fall far below the 70 percent of car adverts that promoted lower-carbon electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles.The high volume of company ads for greener cars risk “misleading” the public, according to Robbie Gillett from the Ad Free Cities network. “Car companies can hide behind these adverts for plug-in-hybrids and fully electric vehicles, which actually dont represent the majority of sales,” he says. “It allows companies to present themselves as greener than they are.” Recent research by climate and energy think tank Influence Map shows that – like almost all car manufacturers – none of the brands analysed by DeSmog are aligned with the IEA’s 1.5C scenario for decarbonizing the transport sector, which requires a rapid scale-up of battery electric vehicles. The brands are also members of key industry bodies that are pushing back against green targets.  “Advertising campaigns will sell more vehicles of a certain type. So, in that sense, its a good thing that automakers are promoting electric vehicles far more than they used to,’’ says Ben Youriev from Influence Map.  “But in many cases, while green PR campaigns are going on, in the background car companies are lobbying – either directly, or indirectly through their industry associations – against climate legislation.”Some lobbying is aimed at delaying the phase-out of hybrid cars, as well as conventional vehicles. While less polluting than cars entirely fuelled by petrol and diesel, research suggests hybrids are only marginally less emitting when real world data on their use is taken into account. Under the EU’s current phase out plan, all petrol and diesel engines will cease to be sold by 2034. A representative from Renault was quoted last year  saying the firm will “fight to keep the hybrid alive” past this date.Stellantis – the parent company which owns four of the brands analysed – and Renault were both contacted for comment. *In its reporting, the Stellantis group uses a sales category of ‘low-emission vehicles’ (defined as having emissions of under 50gCO2/km). This means its higher-emitting hybrids may not be included in this figure. Renault’s sales figures cover all sales of its Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and hybrids. †The low-emission vehicle sales figures for Citroen, Fiat, Peugeot and Jeep are an average drawn from their parent company Stellantis, which does not break down sales data across its different brands. SUVs Booming DeSmog’s analysis also found that a significant minority of adverts were dedicated to promoting highly polluting vehicles. SUVs in particular emit more than regular-sized cars and return higher profits. Petrol and diesel cars are more profitable than electric equivalents as they are cheaper to make. One in four adverts promoted conventional cars that were entirely powered by fossil fuels, while 41 percent promoted SUVs that were hybrid or powered entirely by fossil-fuels.Author and campaigner Andrew Simms said car firms’ continued push to sell “the most road-hugging and energy-inefficient” car is an “indictment of any sustainability claims” and takes away legitimacy from low-carbon transition plans. The growth of SUV production is identified as a key threat to decarbonizing the transport sector. Sales of SUVs have more than doubled in the last decade and risk canceling out much of the emissions reductions gained from the uptake of electric vehicles. Taken together, their combined emissions are greater than those of some major industrial nations, including Germany.“The companies are making a lot of money from SUVs so they continue to market those but emphasize sales of EVs at the same time,” says Karen Sokol, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. “The danger is that company ads risk allowing them to continue business as usual.”“They are still plugging those things – people getting out in nature, with these fossil fuel guzzler vehicles that you are supposed to need in this terrain or whatever. It’s as if they are pretending to actually do something to shift the energy sources when they are not – or at least not at the pace required.” Airline ads ignore climate crisis The aviation industry is responsible for around 5 percent of global heating. While lower than other sectors, aviation remains a sector of particular concern to climate scientists. According to one industry analysis, the number of passenger flights will more than double by the year 2050 compared to 2019. Meanwhile, technologies to make flying more sustainable remain in their infancy.The majority of ads analysed – all of which were published in 2021, when pandemic restrictions were being lifted – emphasized low-cost flights and deals.A majority of flight adverts (90 percent) made no mention of sustainability, while 56 percent promoted flights that were made cheaper or easier to book through discounts and promotions.Three out of five airlines analysed by DeSmog – Brussels Airlines, Air France and Scandinavian Airlines – made environmental claims in their adverts. Air France and Brussels Airlines emphasized more efficient use of energy, with the latter also publicizing a “carbon neutral” target which it plans to reach through a mix of more fuel-efficient planes and carbon offsetting.A spokesperson for Lufthansa Group, which owns the Lufthansa, Brussels and Austrian airlines included in the analysis said: “We are committed to reducing the environmental impact of flying” and that they worked to keep the public informed on the efforts they were taking to reduce their emissions, which they aim to cut to to zero by 2050. Scandinavian Airlines stood out as the one firm that dedicated the most significant number of adverts to the environment – focusing on offsetting, the use of “sustainable aviation fuels” (SAFs) and electric planes in nearly 30 percent of its adverts.Campaign group the Aviation Environment Federation have labelled the green initiatives marketed by airlines as “uncertain” or “unrealistic” solutions.  Flying is harder to decarbonise than many other sectors. Alternatives to current fuels, such as SAFs – derived either from biofuels, or from chemical processes using  renewable energy – are currently only used on a very small scale, and experts say they will be very challenging to scale up. This has led to a reliance on offsetting schemes, which have been widely criticised.  Meanwhile, though more efficient planes have helped reduce emissions per flight, carbon savings from newer aircraft have been cancelled out by the growth in demand for flying.  Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) said in a statement: “There are important challenges that have to be solved in order to make air travel more sustainable. SAS and the global air transport industry has adopted a long-term goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. A mix of new technology – including potentially shifting to electricity and hydrogen, improvements in operations and infrastructure; and the transition to sustainable aviation fuel will lead the industry to the goal.” With just nine percent of adverts featuring green themes, the airline industry was pushing environmental credentials far less than the car industry. Cait Hewitt, from the Aviation Environment Federation, puts this down to a lack of viable technology. “They havent got so many good options to talk up. Aviation doesnt really have any on the market,” she explained. “So it’s all about the future. ‘We are going to develop these sustainable fuels’ or ‘hydrogen aircraft’, that kind of thing. Sustainable aviation fuels are the next big thing the industry wants to talk about as a solution. But they havent quite got there, in terms of public recognition, to be able to actually put it in an advert yet.” Simms puts the lack of green ads to airlines down to successfully staying out of the line of fire – and out of Paris climate agreements. “They’ve played an incredibly clever game. I am not surprised [at the lack of green ads] because from a public image and perception management point of view, the aviation industry has been less subject to the kind of pressure that the car industry is under,” he says.  Gillett believes that marketing that fails to mention the climate crisis – given its urgency – is grossly irresponsible” and requires us to update our definition of greenwashing.  “The idea of greenwash is expanding to include the presentation of a polluting product, such as an airline ticket, that does not mention the need to cut down on that product in the short, medium and long term – that’s a form of greenwash as well,” he says. It’s presenting that product as unproblematic and omitting key information about its long term use.” SAS said in a statement: “The undoubted economic and social benefits of aviation come with an environmental cost. Therefore SAS, and the industry, has set short and long term climate targets so that future generations can benefit from connectivity that only aviation can provide. SAS will decarbonize our business, that is our long term promise.” Pressure grows on fossil-fuel advertising Research by Greenpeace has shown a direct link between car and airline advertisements and increased greenhouse gas emissions. In 2019, car and airline adverts are said to have led to additional emissions greater than those of the Netherlands. Campaigners are increasingly highlighting the mismatch between adverts that promote the products and industries that scientists say need to be cut back and reduced, if the world is to maintain a liveable climate.       In April, the world’s leading climate scientists highlighted the role advertising has played in obstructing climate action and deflecting responsibility for climate change.Meanwhile a call to ban fossil fuel adverts is gathering support across Europe. It’s championed by campaigners who point to the crackdown on tobacco advertising – which faces a near total ban in the UK and Europe – as an important precedent.  “Sometimes youll see those warnings about climate change and advertising high carbon products on the same page in the same newspaper, or on the same digital billboard,” says Gillet. “And that mismatch is starting to be noticed by the public.” Sokol said calls for a ban were justified: “That shift is important – it’s like marketing deadly products,” she says. “This is something that has to be banned: we cant use fossil fuels anymore, and weve got to be consistent with what the science tells us. Weve got to start thinking very differently.”     All the companies analysed in the research were contacted for comment. You can read a full breakdown of DeSmog’s findings in Greenpeace Netherlands’ Words Vs Actions report. The post Revealed: How Car and Airline Advertising Misleads the Public and Threatens Climate Action appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 5/13/22 1:18pm
A newly published report by Fossil Free California finds California’s pension fund managers are circulating divestment “misinformation” by exaggerating the costs involved in shedding their fossil fuel investments in documents prepared for state lawmakers. California lawmakers are currently considering Senate Bill 1173 (SB-1173), California’s Fossil Fuel Divestment Act, which would require the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), to stop investing in fossil fuels before the decade is out. The move would impact billions of dollars currently invested in oil, gas, or coal on behalf of California’s teachers, firefighters, and other public employees. The report titled “Hyperbole in the Hearings” found that the pension “funds have wildly exaggerated losses from past divestments” like those involving tobacco, firearms, and some forms of coal. It concludes that CalPERS and CalSTRS estimates for costs associated with fossil fuel divestment are also exaggerated. Extraordinary sums of money, invested on behalf of California’s public employees and teachers, are on the line. The two pension funds have estimated holdings of $7.4 billion and $4.1 billion respectively in fossil fuel investments that would need to be divested if the law went into effect.  Its time to stop using state employees retirement savings to finance Big Oil.#SB1173 would divest @CalPERS & @CalSTRS from fossil fuels once & for all—but we need your help!Click here to call, write, or schedule a meeting with your representative: https://t.co/UM5Nr2RCk5 pic.twitter.com/3ogICu0oad— Climate Safe Pensions Network (@ClimatePensions) May 13, 2022 SB-1173 is under consideration as the worst drought in 1,200 years continues to parch the American southwest this May and Californians are once again warily eyeing stunningly low reservoir levels. Federal officials have already diverted water from the Colorado River to ensure that the Glen Canyon Dam can generate hydroelectric power for millions, water restrictions will soon go into effect in parts of Los Angeles, and it’s been so dry that in some areas, experts are predicting lower-than-normal wildfire activity because it’s been too arid for the grass that usually fuels wildfires to grow. “This is a crisis unlike anything that we’ve seen before,” Deven Upadhyay, CEO for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, told the Washington Post. The drought and heat have been made far worse by climate change and the burning of fossil fuels. And as the hazards of climate change become increasingly disruptive, in California and around the world, there’s been a growing push for investors to stop funding fossil fuel companies and to walk away from oil, gas, and coal. Before it’s enacted, SB-1173 has to survive what California lawmakers call “suspense,” where the fiscal impacts of the law are considered — and it’s become known in the state as the place where bills “are killed without public debate.” That’s because debate between lawmakers during the suspense process is done behind closed doors and there’s no public vote when a bill is killed “on the suspense file.” In late April, CalPERS and CalSTRS submitted estimates for the costs of fossil fuel divestment for consideration during suspense — claiming that shedding a combined $11.5 billion in fossil fuel company holdings would cost them millions of dollars, with CalPERS estimating the transaction costs between $75 to $100 million and CalSTRS estimating up to $11.6 million. Any good investment advisor should be able to craft a strategy with minimal transaction fees. Tom Sanzillo Fossil Free California challenges those numbers, arguing that transaction costs should be minimal. “In reality, the trading cost of divesting (selling shares) should not add a huge amount to trading costs that are already in the budget,” the new report concludes. “Fund managers buy and sell shares all the time, and these costs are already covered in the ordinary course of business.” “The $75-$100 million in transaction costs is crazy,” said Tom Sanzillo, director of financial analysis for the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, who did not author the new report but reviewed a draft. “Again there is no methodological explanation.” Sanzillo, who supervised New York’s state pension fund as it increased from $97 billion to $150 billion over four years, noted that divestment, from an administrative perspective, “should not cost much if anything.” He added that the rise of ESG funds — which emphasize environmental, social, and governance issues — and the number of other asset managers divesting from fossil fuels means that “any good investment advisor should be able to craft a strategy with minimal transaction fees. If they cannot, there are advisors who can.” “Climate commitments are fine, and pledges are fine. But money talks. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is.” @SenHenryStern asking right now to co-sponsor #SB1173, to divest @CalPERS @CalSTRS from fossil fuels.— Vanessa Warheit (@vwarheit) April 20, 2022 The report also alleges that pension funds have overstated the costs of previous divestments from controversial industries like the tobacco industry (which CalPERS voted to divest from in 2000) and from thermal coal (divested under a 2015 state law). Officials from CalPERS and CalSTRS recently said that those earlier divestments cost pensioners $8 or $9 billion. But Fossil Free California’s report notes that those estimates appear to be based on their financial performance up to June 30, 2016 — nearly five years ago. The “Hyperbole in the Hearings” report cites an analysis by consulting firm Wilshire and Associates which found that “for the period up to June 30 2020, all active CalPERS divestment programs have delivered positive performance.” To some degree, that’s a debate made more difficult by the absence of official figures, the report authors added. “It’s regrettable that no real-world audit of past divestment costs has taken place: the Legislature is thus at the mercy of the Funds’ estimates,” Fossil Free California wrote. CalPERS declined to comment on the report.  Both pension funds have previously argued that they prefer to engage with fossil fuel companies as investors, rather than walk away. In April, the CalPERS board of directors voted to oppose SB-1173 and another divestment bill related to Russian and Belarusian firms. Divestment would mean that we will not have a seat at the table, and our seat will be taken by investors that may not have the same interest in long-term sustainability as CalPERS, Danny Brown, chief of CalPERS legislative affairs division, said at that meeting. “CalSTRS’ mission is to ensure a secure retirement for California’s nearly 1 million working and retired public school educators,”  Rebecca Forée, a spokesperson for CalSTRS said in an email. The Teachers’ Retirement Board, which administers the fund, has said it opposes SB-1173. “CalSTRS’ approach is more holistic and includes measuring emissions, engaging directly with companies, working to expand government policies, and investing in solutions.” “The Teachers’ Retirement Board committed CalSTRS to a net zero investment portfolio by 2050 or sooner to guard against the worst impacts of climate change, preserve a livable planet and enhance the long-term value of our investments,” Forée added. “Based on the Board’s direction and their net zero pledge, we are focused on developing a Net Zero Action Plan. As part of the plan, CalSTRS is investing $20 billion in climate-oriented solutions, and these investments are accelerating as we identify new opportunities.” While they might disagree about the specific numbers, CalSTRS and Fossil Free California have appeared to agree that divesting from one fossil fuel, thermal coal, has been the pension fund’s best performing divestment. During a March 9, 2022, hearing, CalSTRS CIO Chris Ailman testified that while he believes “every divestment has cost us money … thermal coal divestment has come the closest to breaking even.” The true cost of divestment is the failure to divest — staying invested in fossil fuels has been, and is, a financial risk. Hyperbole in the Hearings Arguments for divesting from fossil fuels have been bolstered by the sector’s recent struggles. The past five years have been full of extraordinary upheaval not only for coal companies but also for oil and gas companies — and investors have traveled a very rocky road during that time. Oil prices have swung wildly, infamously touching negative numbers in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic before surging to over $100 a barrel today. Fossil fuels’ role in causing the climate crisis has certainly not escaped the eye of many investors, who have become increasingly skeptical about the long-term prospects for the 20th century’s energy giants. Take, for example, what’s happened to ExxonMobil over the past five years. CalPERS annual investment report shows that as the pension fund’s fiscal year drew to a close in 2016, it held over 13 million shares of ExxonMobil stock, with a market value of over $93 a share. Today, ExxonMobil’s stock is valued at around $85 a share — after dipping into the $30 range twice, in the spring and fall of 2020. Between those two dips, the long-time blue-chip company was dropped from the Dow Jones Industrial Average. And even as oil prices have surged again, Exxon’s stock prices remain below the over-$100 heights its shares reached in 2013 and 2014. Meanwhile, the Dow has soared from around 18,000 points in 2016 to over 32,000 points today, meaning that while Exxon’s value was falling, much of the rest of the stock market was surging. And Exxon is hardly alone. Reuters called the 2010s a “lost decade for shares of U.S. energy companies overall,” citing bankruptcies and overspending on shale, and noting that during that time, “the energy sector’s total earnings have declined 14.8%, while all other major sectors have seen growth of at least 28%.” That kind of financial underperformance adds to the pressure on CalPERS and CalSTRS to divest — as do the financial risks associated with the impacts of a rapidly changing climate.  Without #SB1173, @CalPERS & @CalSTRS will continue investing our public pensions in: California wildfires The East African Crude Oil Pipeline Russian oil & gasCall your CA rep today & urge them to vote YES on #SB1173! https://t.co/93bQj5zJOw #caleg @MariaEDurazo— Jessica Craven (@Craven7Jessica) May 13, 2022 “Evidence shows that CalPERS’ and CalSTRS’ assertions that every divestment has cost them money are wildly exaggerated,” the report concludes. “What they don’t say is that the Funds have already lost tens of billions from value destruction in the entire Energy sector.” “The true cost of divestment is the failure to divest — staying invested in fossil fuels has been, and is, a financial risk.” And of course, as the drumbeat of climate change-related catastrophes grows ever faster, the hazards involved for California’s pension funds and their members aren’t just financial.  “The data is clear: Fossil fuels are a risky financial investment, and they are furthering the climate crisis,” state senator Lena A. Gonzalez, who introduced SB-1173, wrote in an April op-ed in the Sacramento Bee. “From oil spills to land contamination and air pollution, it’s low-income Black and brown communities that suffer the most. In my district, Southeast Los Angeles and Long Beach suffer from high air pollution, public health burdens and social and economic disadvantages.” “California cannot be a climate justice leader,” she added, “if we continue to invest in the companies that are polluting our environment.” The post As California Considers Dropping Fossil Fuels from Major Pension Funds, New Report Calls Out ‘Misinformation’ on Costs appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 5/12/22 3:19am
The new chairman of GB News has a history of sharing articles that dismiss the threat of climate change, sharpening concerns about the TV channel’s role as a platform for opponents of climate action.   Between 2013 and 2017, United Arab Emirates-based investment manager Alan McCormick tweeted numerous articles by climate science deniers, including one calling on readers to “celebrate carbon dioxide”. GB News regularly hosts guests who cast doubt on climate science and oppose green polices, including the Net Zero Scrutiny Group (NZSG) of Conservative MPs. In March, presenter Nigel Farage launched a call for a “Net Zero Referendum” on the UK’s climate targets, modeled on his successful Brexit campaign. McCormick, whose appointment was made public at the end of April, has also tweeted praise for calls for deregulation in the UK by Tory MP Steve Baker, who is leading the NZSG’s backbench revolt against the UK’s 2050 net zero goal. Baker, a former Brexit Minister, recently promoted a report by the climate science denying Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), of which he is a trustee, claiming there is no evidence for the climate crisis. One of the main investors in GB News is the Legatum Group, a Dubai-based investment firm co-founded by McCormick. The company owns the Legatum Institute, an influential pro-Brexit think-tank that has taken donations from the American Koch oil dynasty. News of McCormick’s appointment as chairman of GB News’ parent company All Perspectives Ltd emerged on the Guido Fawkes political blog and was later confirmed in a tweet by Legatum Group. According to official records, McCormick has been a director of the company since April 2021 and lives in the United Arab Emirates. McCormick and two other men involved in Legatum – Mark Stoleson, its Maltese chief executive, and Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born billionaire – are listed as “persons with significant control”, meaning they hold at least a quarter of shares or voting rights. Responding to the news, Jennie King, head of civic action and education at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue think-tank, said GB News had become a “central hub” of climate scepticism in the British media, and that “its influence increasingly extends beyond UK borders”. Legatum and GB News did not respond to requests for comment. McCormicks Climate Tweets McCormick’s tweets about climate change, reviewed by DeSmog, mostly consisted of an article headline and a link without comment. In March 2015, McCormick tweeted a Wall Street Journal article headlined “The Political Assault on Climate Skeptics”. The piece is by Richard S Lindzen, a US scientist who has said believing carbon dioxide is the main cause of climate change is “pretty close to believing in magic”, and has received thousands of dollars from fossil fuel-funded think tanks.  The same month, McCormick tweeted “Why I am a climate sceptic”, a piece by Patrick Moore published by the Heartland Institute, a US fossil fuel-backed think-tank, in which Moore says there is “no scientific proof” that humans are causing climate change and calls on readers to “celebrate carbon dioxide”.  In May 2017, McCormick tweeted a climate sceptic WSJ editorial in which columnist Holman W. Jenkins Jr. writes that “climate advocacy has morphed into a religion”.  In 2016 he tweeted a Mail on Sunday story titled “Exposed: The Great Green LSE Con” republished by the GWPF, and written by David Rose, a self-described “friend” of the GWPF who has written various stories sceptical of climate science.  In January 2015, McCormick tweeted a Telegraph article titled “Proof that the wind industry cannot be relied upon for our electricity”.  In 2013, McCormick tweeted “The message of shale gas is: scrap the Climate Act”, the headline of a Telegraph piece by the now-late climate sceptic Christopher Booker that mocks “the delusion that, by cutting down our ‘carbon emissions’, we can somehow change the Earth’s climate” and calls on politicians to abolish the UK’s climate legislation. The climate sceptic tweets appear to stop in 2017 but McCormick recently retweeted a piece by GWPF advisor Matt Ridley recycling unproven claims that anti-fracking protests have been funded by Russian President Vladimir Putin.    Think-Tank Tied to Fossil Fuels The Legatum Institute Foundation (LIF), a charitable enterprise created by the Legatum Group, has taken funding in recent years from another foundation tied to US fossil fuel giant Koch Industries, a major supporter of think-tanks, lobbyists and politicians opposing climate action in the United States. US tax filings show the LIF, whose board of trustees McCormick chairs, received donations of £60,700 ($77,000) in both 2019 and 2018 from the Charles Koch Foundation, the charitable arm of Koch Industries. According to Greenpeace, the Koch family spent more than £116.1 million ($145.5 million) directly financing 90 groups denying climate change science from 1997-2018. The LIF’s think-tank, the Legatum Institute, played a leading role in the libertarian drive for a “hard” Brexit and in 2018 was found to have breached Charity Commission guidelines on neutrality for one of its reports.  The Legatum Institute Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.  GB News and Climate Science Denial GB News has emerged as a key arena for a small group of Conservative MPs opposed to net zero to make their case. Last month, Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay, chair of the Net Zero Scrutiny Group, was interviewed on GB News about a poll that supposedly showed public support for lifting the UK’s ban on hydrauling fracturing, or fracking, for shale gas.  DeSmog revealed that the survey was paid for by denial group Net Zero Watch (NZW), the campaigning arm of the GWPF. NZW head of policy Harry Wilkinson, who also works as Mackinlay’s parliamentary aide, is a frequent guest on GB News.  Another frequent guest is Lois Perry, director of campaign group CAR26, which questions whether carbon dioxide is a “significant factor in global warming”. In October, during the COP26 summit, the channel interviewed activist Alex Epstein, who used his appearance to reject the scientific consensus on humans’ climate impact and whether it is “net negative”, adding: “The jury is out because there’s a lot of beneficial warming”.   Climate sceptics are also employed as GB News presenters, who have used the channel to promote their climate views. Last summer, GB News presenter Dan Wootton accused the UN’s climate science body the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of using “hysterical” language and “spreading terror”. Last month, presenter Darren Grimes praised oil and gas and accused the UK government of “net zero zealotry”.  Also last month, GB News economics and business editor Liam Halligan wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that “fracking deserves a second chance”. During the COP26 climate summit in November, Halligan used his GB News platform to accuse the summit of “hypocrisy and virtue signalling”. In February, the IPCC noted the dangers of misinformation which “undermines climate science and disregards risk and urgency” at a time when there is “a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all”. King, from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, noted that GB News produced 22 posts about climate change on average every day during the COP26 summit last year, generating over 100,000 interactions, compared to the IPCC’s six posts per day and 18,000 interactions. “Using GB News as a platform, Farage and others have almost single-handedly manufactured controversy around a Net Zero referendum, despite minimal evidence of public support,” she added. “Such content not only influences policymaking in the UK, but is excerpted and used by anti-climate movements across the globe.”  Sean Buchan of campaign group Stop Funding Heat said there had been “warning signs” since its launch that GB News was out of step with climate science, so McCormick’s tweets were no surprise. Noting that “major advertisers” were increasingly avoiding the channel, he said he hoped the news would be “another reason for those advertisers aligned with climate science to financially distance themselves from the organisation.” You can explore our profiles of climate science deniers in DeSmog’s Climate Disinformation Database. The post GB News Appoints Chairman Who Spent Years Promoting Climate Denial appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 5/10/22 10:39am
In April, the Globe & Mail published an article on its website extolling the virtues of natural gas appliances in people’s houses. The story, headlined “Why natural gas is the smart choice for your new home,” has the look and feel of actual journalism. It includes statistics about Canada’s “reliable” gas industry, a photo of a young couple cooking on their gas range and quotes from Canadian homebuilders and makers of consumer products—such as grills and fireplaces—that use gas. It looks explicitly designed to appeal to first-time homebuyers. But even though natural gas is a major growing source of emissions in the country (Canada is the world’s fourth largest producer of the fossil fuel), the article didn’t once mention climate change, nor the potentially severe health impacts from breathing in gas fumes. That’s because the article isn’t real journalism, but rather an advertisement paid for by an organization called Fuelling Canada that is linked to some of North America’s top gas companies. It has a small label at the top describing it as “sponsor content.” But otherwise it looks practically identical to news stories from real reporters on the Globe & Mail website. “That’s what makes these sponsored ads so slimy. For the vast majority of readers who look at stuff very quickly, that nuance is lost on them,” Seth Klein, team lead and director of strategy for an advocacy group called the Climate Emergency Unit, told DeSmog. “The goal of this advertising is to lock us into more decades of using natural gas.” The Globe Content Studio, the unit at the newspaper that produces its sponsored content, didn’t respond to questions from DeSmog. Around the time that the Globe & Mail ad appeared, Fuelling Canada was also paying for multiple ads per day on Facebook that in some cases had an estimated audience size of up to 500,000 people, according to publicly available ad data. It’s spent nearly $22,000 so far on such ads, many of which are specifically targeted to people under age 44, a demographic associated with first-time homebuyers. Screengrab from Fuelling Canadas Facebook ad campaign “Nearly 50% of all residential consumers rely on natural gas for heating, cooking and fuelling appliances,” one Facebook ad said, featuring an image of an older, smiling couple grilling food on a barbecue. “Natural gas is always available.”   Fuelling Canada describes itself on its website as “a resource hub for Canadians to learn more about natural gas and its essential role in the Canadian economy.” But it is hardly neutral when it comes to discussing one of the world’s major contributors to global warming. The organization was created by the Canadian Gas Association, an industry group whose members include gas companies like Enbridge and FortisBC, as well as TC Energy, builder of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a project that has faced fierce opposition led by hereditary chiefs from the Wetsuweten First Nation. Fuelling Canada wants to create the impression of a national grassroots campaign. “[It] is a collaborative of a growing ecosystem of stakeholders who are passionate about gaseous energy,” Paul Cheliak, vice president for strategy and delivery at the Canadian Gas Association, wrote in an email to DeSmog. “These include innovators and cleantech companies, home builders, restaurants, appliance manufacturers, transit agencies and associations.” The advertising effort is being boosted by the Alberta government. “How Canada benefits from reliable, affordable natural gas,” reads a post promoting Fuelling Canada earlier this year on the website for the Canadian Energy Centre, a government propaganda organization funded by a carbon tax on heavy polluters and governed by three provincial cabinet ministers. “The [Canadian Energy Centre], we assume, profiles a series of topics that are of interest to their readership,” Cheliak wrote. “The Canadian Gas Association is not working with the Government of Alberta under any agreement or contractual arrangement related to Fuelling Canada.” Klein argues it’s not a coincidence that some of the same companies behind Fuelling Canada also belong to an industry alliance that is fighting against municipal rules designed to phase out climate-warming natural gas in homes and buildings and replace them with electric ranges and other cleaner energy sources. Internal documents describe this “Consortium to Combat Electrification” as a campaign whose mission is to “create effective, customizable marketing materials to fight the electrification/anti-natural gas movement.” The gas industry, one slide explains, is “in for [the] fight of it’s [sic] life.” The consortium’s members include Enbridge and FortisBC, two of the companies also involved with Fuelling Canada. The major industry players paying for cleverly framed sponsored content promoting natural gas are the very same ones working behind the scenes to stop a shift away from fossil fuels. “They want to continue to lock in customers in new fossil fuel infrastructure,” Klein said. “And they’re pulling out all the stops.” The post New Gas Industry Astroturf Group ‘Fuelling Canada’ Targets First-Time Homebuyers appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 5/10/22 10:20am
There’s a simple rule when it comes to corporate climate commitments: when they come out on Earth Day, you know they’re often too good to be true. That’s certainly the case with Twitter’s April 22 announcement that they’ll be banning ads that contradict the “scientific consensus” on climate change in a bid to counter the climate disinformation that runs rampant across the platform.  At first blush, the Twitter policy seems like it could be a gamechanger. In its statement, the company writes: “We believe that climate denialism shouldn’t be monetized on Twitter, and that misrepresentative ads shouldn’t detract from important conversations about the climate crisis.”  We couldn’t agree more. The problem is that Twitter’s new policy won’t actually stop the most dangerous type of climate disinformation: fossil fuel industry greenwashing.  As the climate crisis became a matter of global concern over the last few decades, there was a concerted focus on “climate denial” as the greatest barrier to climate action. “Climate deniers” became the catch-all phrase to refer to those opposed to addressing the crisis and an unbelievable amount of time and resources were dedicated to simply conveying the reality that global warming was not only real, but a major threat to society as we know it.  Thanks in large part to those efforts, and the ever worsening crisis, climate science denial has become a largely fringe issue, more a matter of political identity than a serious movement in its own right. Yes, there are still climate science deniers, and an embarrassing number of them are high-ranking Republican officials, but it’s nearly impossible to find a corporate leader, even at fossil fuel corporations, who will tell you that global warming is a hoax.  From Denial to Greenwash What’s taken denial’s place is a more insidious form of climate disinformation: greenwashing.  Fossil fuel giants will now tell you that they are very concerned about the climate crisis (as we now know, their scientists actually have been concerned about the crisis for decades, even as management swept the truth under the rug). Go to the websites of Big Oil companies and you’ll find them plastered with sustainability reports, net zero commitments, and pictures of wind turbines and solar panels.  The same is true for their advertising on Twitter. ExxonMobil’s Twitter feed and promoted ads are full of promises about net-zero and carbon capture and sequestration – they even hype a “circular economy for plastics.” BP, always the oil company most committed to greenwashing its brand, goes even further, featuring the hashtag #bpnetzero in their bio, and featuring so many posts about electric vehicle charging stations, you’d think they were Tesla.  These ads can’t be written off as easily as a crank with 23 followers ranting about sun flares and the impending ice age. As our Clean Creatives campaign has documented, the fossil fuel industry is working with some of the world’s largest and most talented advertising agencies to craft their propaganda. The ads are slick, shiny, and effective.  The same pattern extends across the other oil majors, as well as utilities, gas producers, and other energy intensive corporations. See the world through Twitter’s advertising and you’d be convinced that every corporation in the world was dedicating most of its resources to solving the climate crisis. As DeSmog found last year, fossil fuel giants are devoting a huge chunk of their digital messaging to emissions-cutting efforts. Nothing could be further from the truth. As the think tank Oil Change International has shown in their Big Oil Reality Check report, none of the oil majors have a credible plan to reach net zero. Their much-hyped spending on renewables? The International Energy Agency estimated it to be less than 1% of their capital expenditures, as of 2020, and ambitions to ramp up their renewable energy divisions still pale in comparison to their fossil fuel investments. Their plans for carbon capture and sequestration? A fairytale (Chevron’s flagship CCS facility has been described as a “monster problem” and has utterly failed to deliver).  Which makes all their advertisements on Twitter classic disinformation: content designed to deceive and mislead the public, politicians, and investors so that the industry can continue to avoid regulations and accountability. After all, if the world believes that fossil fuel companies are doing everything they can to solve the climate crisis, why would we pressure them to do anything more?  Time for a Fossil Fuel Ad Ban This propaganda doesn’t just “detract from important conversations about the climate crisis,” as Twitter puts, it completely derails them. With so many policymakers, media elites, and investors on Twitter, the fossil fuel industry is able to use the platform to lull the establishment into a deep, dreamy sleep, even as scientists and activists do everything they can to raise the climate alarm.  The solution is clear. Just like Twitter bans firearm and tobacco industry ads, it’s time they ban fossil fuels. If Twitter isn’t going to allow Remington to advertise “kid safe” rifles or Philip Morris to promote “healthy” cigarettes, they shouldn’t allow ExxonMobil to tout “net zero” fossil fuels. The latter is just as much of a fantasy and arguably even more dangerous considering what’s at stake.  We made it this far without mentioning the billionaire in the room, but any conversation about climate and Twitter can’t avoid its controversial potential new owner. Will the CEO of the largest electric car manufacturer in the world stop the fossil fuel industry from using his platform to undermine climate action? I doubt it. If the sale goes through, Musk’s misguided sense of free speech and libertarian tendencies will surely stop him from putting into place any meaningful regulations. Our best hope, then, is to do everything we can to make this propaganda less effective. That means continuing the “green trolling” that mocks every fossil fuel ad and post, exposing the truth about fossil fuels in new and effective ways, and, as we’ve done with Clean Creatives, going after the advertising agencies who craft this propaganda so that the fossil fuel industry has fewer talented creatives to work with.  Finally, we have to remember that Twitter is not, in fact, reality. Real change will be created in the streets, in statehouses, and on the ground in our own communities, not in the endless doom scroll of the Twitterverse. Social media can be a tool for organizing, but it isn’t a replacement for it. An hour spent going to a protest, pressuring your bank to divest from fossil fuels, or working on a community solar project is indubitably better than an hour spent tweeting.  We know fossil fuel companies will continue to try and use social media platforms like Twitter to lull us and our elected officials back to sleep. It’s our job to stay wide awake and demand others do the same. Jamie Henn is the founder of Fossil Free Media and helps lead the Clean Creatives campaign. The post Twitter’s New Ad Policy Ignores a Subtler Form of Climate Disinformation appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 5/9/22 2:10pm
NW Natural, a gas utility based in Oregon, is seeking to raise gas bills on its customers in order to pay for millions in executive bonuses, higher returns to shareholders, and a larger advertising budget. It is also hoping to saddle ratepayers with costs associated with the utility’s political activities, in which the company engaged in “misleading” marketing to perpetuate the use of gas at a time when the state is attempting to electrify homes and businesses, a coalition of environmental organizations led by Earthjustice argue in a formal proceeding. The utility has formally asked Oregon’s public utilities commission (PUC) for a rate increase of more than $70 million, a roughly 12 percent hike over current rates. This comes on the tail of a 13 percent bump that was enacted late last year. If the new increase is approved, Oregon gas customers will see their rates jump 25 percent over 12 months.  The 2021 rate increase was the result of higher commodity costs, which are passed on to customers. Part of the latest proposed increase is connected to investments in IT and safety upgrades, the utility says. But it also contains much more controversial elements.  NW Natural also wants ratepayers to pick up the tab for millions of dollars of executive bonuses and higher returns to shareholders. “Customers shouldnt be paying for rewards that are about benefiting shareholders,” Bob Jenks, executive director of the Oregon Citizens’ Utility Board (CUB), a residential customer advocacy group, told DeSmog.  He said that the PUC has historically ruled that bonuses should be paid for by shareholders. Not only would it be inappropriate to put that burden on ratepayers in the first place, but it could also result in even more substantial handouts to executives going forward, Jenks added. “Obviously, if it’s funded out of ratepayers, then the shareholders may well be more generous when they give officers bonuses,” he said.  In a response to DeSmog, Dave Santen, a spokesperson for NW Natural, said, “NW Natural targets non-bargaining unit employee total compensation, including for executives, at the market median for utilities based on third-party data for equivalent jobs elsewhere.”  At the same time that NW Natural is seeking higher executive compensation, roughly 375,000, or 25 percent of households across the state — not all of which are customers of NW Natural — struggle to pay their bills. The utility offers some assistance to low-income households, but it is a paltry sum, especially in light of the millions of dollars the company wants to pay its executives.  “The total cost to ratepayers of the low-income bill discount program is approximately $7.4 million. The Commission should compare this cost with the $11 million that NW Natural requests in its petition to pay for executive compensation and salary bonuses — including $4 million for top executives,” Charity Fain, executive director of the Community Energy Project, said in a testimony to the PUC. “NW Natural business executives should not earn recompense from ratepayers through salary bonuses when 25% of Oregonians can barely afford to pay their energy bills.” NW Natural ads promote low-cost natural gas, but do not disclose that the utility is seeking rate increases. Credit: Screenshot from formal testimony to the PUC on April 22, 2022. Corporate promotion through ‘misleading’ advertising  NW Natural is also asking the PUC to approve rate increases to cover “additional advertising and media expense” aimed at educating customers on how the utility will decarbonize.   Normally, utilities are allowed to charge ratepayers for advertising that relates to a number of legitimate purposes, such as informing the public about office hours, service repairs, safety, rate structures, and other information that relates to utility systems and how to access services.  Utilities are generally not allowed to recoup costs from ratepayers for advertising that merely promotes the corporation’s image or promotes gas use in an attempt to add customers. A utility needs to clear a very high bar in order to convince the PUC to sign off on allowing ratepayers to cover the cost of this sort of “promotional” or “institutional” advertising. But that is exactly what NW Natural is attempting to do with its various advertising campaigns, a coalition of environmental groups led by Earthjustice and the Green Energy Institute argue in a testimony opposing NW Natural’s rate increase request. For example, last year NW Natural paid for digital advertising that suggested that indoor air pollution from cooking occurs regardless of whether the stove is gas or electric. “No matter how you cook,” one ad says, “ventilation is key to healthy indoor air.” While it is true that cooking releases particulate matter regardless of the type of stove, research shows that gas stoves emit additional pollutants that are harmful to human health, including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, and formaldehyde. This information was omitted from the NW Natural ad, obscuring the health risks of gas stoves.  Its ads also promote the benefits of cooking with gas and why chefs prefer cooking with gas.  NW Natural ads promote cooking with gas and why homebuyers prefer heating with natural gas (left). Ads promoting renewable natural gas suggest RNG is on the way home. Credit: Screenshot from formal testimony to the PUC on April 22, 2022. Meanwhile, NW Natural also ran an ad campaign to promote “renewable natural gas,” or RNG, which is methane captured from landfills and animal feedlots. The utility has made RNG a core part of its decarbonization campaign, claiming that it can ship RNG to homes and businesses without much effort on the part of the ratepayer.  The campaign is highly misleading, according to Earthjustice and the Green Energy Institute. NW Natural’s digital, TV, and print advertising promotes RNG as a climate solution, ignoring the fact that it is still methane that is burned and contributes to climate change. There is also evidence that suggests RNG is extremely expensive and will have difficulty ever scaling up. That’s not what Oregon ratepayers are hearing from their utility. In its marketing material, NW Natural’s slogan says “renewable natural gas is on the way home.” However, NW Natural is not actually piping RNG into Oregon homes and businesses at all.  Instead, it has invested in a project with Tyson Foods and BioCarbN, a project developer in Nebraska, which entails capturing methane from animal waste and putting it into the gas pipeline system. Contrary to what NW Natural’s marketing implies, the gas from the Tyson facility does not come to Oregon, but instead is handed over to a gas marketing company in Nebraska and used locally. Instead of physically sending RNG to Oregon households, NW Natural earns “renewable thermal credits” from the RNG sold in Nebraska. This scheme is akin to carbon offsets, allowing NW Natural to claim progress on decarbonization even though it continues sending fossil gas to its Oregon customers just as before. The Nebraska project with Tyson, along with a handful of other similar agreements around the country, add up to credits for RNG sales that are equivalent to less than 2 percent of the utility’s total gas sales in Oregon, representing a tiny portion of the company’s business.  NW Natural told DeSmog that its credits are verified by M-RETS, a third-party renewable energy tracking and validation system, and that RNG turns harmful waste into useful energy. But the reliance on credits from faraway RNG sales is not clear in the utility’s ads. “That is a very different story than what you are telling the public in your advertising,” Jaimini Parekh, a senior associate attorney with Earthjustice, told DeSmog. The ads suggest RNG is “being piped to their homes and businesses. That is not whats happening, and thats misleading,” she said. NW Naturals ads suggest renewable natural gas is on its way home. Credit: Screenshot from formal testimony to the PUC on April 22, 2022. Parekh said that misleading advertising is important because it is an indicator that the point is not to inform the public. If simply providing information to customers was the goal, she said, NW Natural would clearly disclose in its advertising that its RNG program does not deliver RNG to Oregon homes and simply results in credits.  That misdirection has legal implications for the rate increase request, since the PUC allows utilities to pass along advertising costs to customers if that advertising is providing information to customers. If the ads are promotional, recovering costs from ratepayers is much more difficult. “The reason why they are advertising in this way is because they want people to think positively about NW Natural gas utility service. They want to keep people as customers. There are a lot of people in Oregon that are very concerned about climate change,” Parekh said.  Promoting the corporate image, Earthjustice argues, is not a legitimate reason to get ratepayers to cover ad costs.  In response to questions from DeSmog, NW Natural asserted that its advertising is informational. “Our advertising efforts are designed to inform and educate customers about various aspects of our system including safety, consumer information, generation and transmission methods, utility expenses, rate structures, rate increases, load forecasting, environmental considerations, and other contemporary items of customer interest. All are allowed by the PUC,” Santen said.  “Because RNG is a new energy source, we have a responsibility to educate customers about the importance and benefits of RNG before and as we begin to deliver it to their homes and business,” he added. Environmental groups reject NW Natural’s promotion of RNG as a climate solution. “NW Naturals RNG campaign is a bait and switch. This is yet another example of NW Natural using ratepayer dollars to advance their bottom line at the expense of public health and our childrens future,” Nora Apter, the climate program director at the Oregon Environmental Council, told DeSmog in an email. “In reality, these investments will only expand our reliance on fossil gas and dig us deeper into climate catastrophe.“ She added that NW Natural’s attempts to get customers to foot the bill for RNG is “a lose-lose situation for the working people of Oregon and a win-win for NW Natural, its shareholders, and executives.” “Growth is no longer beneficial to the customers”  NW Natural is arguably trying to burnish its image not only to keep existing customers but to attract new ones in the face of rising opposition to gas.  As the climate crisis worsens, climate scientists have called on governments around the world to wind down fossil fuel operations. In response, local authorities have begun to restrict the growth of gas infrastructure. In recent years, more than 50 cities and the state of Washington have adopted building code measures or bans on gas hookups in new residential and commercial buildings. NW Natural is also on the defensive in its service area. The city of Eugene has made steps towards banning new gas hookups, while Salem is looking at a similar move. Last year, Multnomah County, where Portland is located, ordered new county buildings to be all-electric. More than a dozen Oregon cities have climate targets that may eventually result in restrictions on gas utilities.  But restrictions and a shrinking base are not what gas utilities want, and NW Natural has been tracking the issue closely. It has conducted quarterly polling to see how the public perceives gas and RNG, and whether or not they supported bans on new gas hookups. The utility even commissioned a poll of voters in Eugene that showed strong opposition to a ban on gas connections in new homes and buildings, and then sent those results to the Eugene City Manager in April 2022 as the city was weighing new restrictions on gas infrastructure.  NW Naturals quarterly polling tested how the public perceives gas. Credit: Screenshot from formal testimony to the PUC on April 22, 2022. NW Natural routinely surveys public opinion on support for bans on new gas hookups. Credit: Screenshot from formal testimony to the PUC on April 22, 2022. NW Natural is encouraging ratepayers to take up the pro-gas fight. In December 2021, Oregon finalized its Climate Protection Plan, which requires gas utilities to cut their emissions in half by 2035. NW Natural has promoted its position as a climate leader, but is simultaneously suing the state to stop the Climate Protection Plan. In multiple emails to ratepayers, NW Natural said it “supports the goal of reducing carbon emissions,” but opposed the Climate Protection Plan as written. In the email, the utility asked readers to take action by submitting public comments to regulators, and provided a series of talking points. NW Natural emailed ratepayers urging them to weigh in on a state regulatory process that targeted greenhouse gas emissions from utilities. Credit: Screenshot from formal testimony to the PUC on April 22, 2022. “It is very hard to decarbonize gas utility service, so it is not in the public interest or in the interest of ratepayers to be paying for advertisements that are improving the image of this company and that are seeking to encourage people to connect to gas utility service under the impression that somehow they are receiving renewable natural gas,” Parekh said. NW Natural is also asking ratepayers to foot the $506,000 dues it paid to the American Gas Association, an industry trade group that has worked hard through lobbying and influence campaigns to halt the trend towards electrification in recent years. As it happens, NW Natural’s CEO, David Anderson, was the chair of the American Gas Association in 2021 and continues as an officer with the industry group. Parekh said that the PUC has previously stated that asking ratepayers to pay for the costs of lobbying is inappropriate because the lobbying can harm ratepayer interests.  Taken together, this misleading PR, internal polling and messaging, and NW Natural’s calls to ratepayers to “take action” against the state’s climate policy, show that the utility is not merely attempting to inform the public, but is instead running a political influence campaign, Earthjustice and its coalition alleged in formal testimony to the PUC submitted in April. And if NW Natural succeeds in its rate request, its customers will pay for this apparent effort to maintain and grow the gas customer base, a mission that Earthjustice and other critics say is no longer acceptable.  “We are in a time of climate crisis. We dont need more customers being connected to the gas utility service,” Parekh said. Jenks, with the residential customer advocacy group, agreed, but viewed it through the lens of a risk to ratepayers. Jenks acknowledged that it will be very difficult for gas utilities to decarbonize, so at a minimum, he said continuing to grow the customer base should be off the table. “Our belief is when you overlay carbon regulation, growth is no longer beneficial to the customers and the system,” he said. If customers are added to the gas system, it gets increasingly difficult to decarbonize it, and becomes more and more costly to existing ratepayers.  “The one thing they dont want to do is to do anything that reduces the number of customers,” Jenks said, referring to NW Natural.  But, he said, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, NW Natural is “in a hole,” and without changing course the state will struggle to reach its climate goals. “We dont know how were going to meet the requirement of 50 percent reduction,” he said. “If youre in a hole and you dont know what to do, the first thing you do is stop digging.” The post Oregon Gas Utility Wants to Bill Customers Millions for Executive Bonuses and ‘Misleading’ Advertising appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 5/6/22 10:08am
By Leanna First-Arai, The Guardian. This article originally appeared in The Guardian and is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story. The oil and gas industry wants to play a word-and-picture association game with you. Think of four images: a brightly colored backpack stuffed with pencils, a smiling teacher with a tablet tucked under her arm, a pair of glasses resting on a stack of pastel notebooks, and a gleaming school bus welcoming a young student onboard. “What do all of these have in common?” a 6 April Facebook post by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA), asked. “They are powered by oil and natural gas!” Here in New Mexico — the fastest-warming and most water-stressed state in the continental United States, where wildfires have recently devoured over 120,000 acres and remain uncontained — the oil and gas industry is coming out in force to deepen the region’s dependence on fossil fuels. Their latest tactic: to position oil and gas as a patron saint of education. Powerful interest groups have deployed a months-long campaign to depict schools and children’s wellbeing as under threat if government officials infringe upon fossil fuel production. An April 6 Facebook post by the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association underscores the idea that public education in the state is dependent on the oil and gas industry. In a video spot exemplary of this strategy, Ashley Niman, a fourth-grade teacher at Enchanted Hills elementary school tells viewers that the industry is what enables her to do her job. “Without oil and gas, we would not have the resources to provide an exemplary education for our students,” she says. “The partnership we have with the oil and gas industry makes me a better teacher.” The video, from September last year, is part of a PR campaign by NMOGA called “Safer and Stronger.” It’s one of many similar strategies the Guardian tracked across social media, television, and audio formats that employs a rhetorical strategy social scientists refer to as the “fossil fuel savior frame.” “What NMOGA and the oil and gas industry are saying is that we hold New Mexico’s public education system hostage to our profit-motivated interests,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center. “There’s an implied threat there.” Last year, New Mexico brought in $1.1 billion from mineral leasing on federal lands — more than any other U.S. state. But the tides may be turning for the fossil fuel industry as officials grapple with the need to halve greenhouse gas emissions this decade. Before mid-April, the Biden administration had paused all new oil and gas leasing and the number of drilling permits on public lands plummeted. In response, pro-industry groups are pushing out what some experts have called “sky is falling” messaging that generates the impression that without oil and gas revenue, the state’s education system is on a chopping block. NMOGA did not respond for comment. Since February, NMOGA has flooded its social media pages with school-related motifs like buses and books, but also with images of empty, abandoned classrooms accompanied by reminders about how the state’s schools “rely on oil and gas production on federal land for more than $700m in funding.” Elected officials have parroted this framing. “This is a matter of critical importance to all, but especially to New Mexico’s schoolchildren, who have suffered greatly during the pandemic,” state representative Yvette Herrell co-wrote in the Santa Fe New Mexican, in February. But tax, budget, and public education funding experts say linking the federal leasing pause to a grave, immediate risk to public education is deceptive. “Any slight reductions stemming from pauses or other so-called ‘adverse’ actions would have zero immediate effect on school funding overall, much less whether students get the services they need to recover from the ill effects on their learning from the pandemic,” said Charles Goodmacher, former government and media relations director at the National Education Association (NEA), now a consultant. The sale of leases does not lead to immediate drilling, he said. Often, companies sit on leases for months or years before production occurs. And as it happens, New Mexico currently has a budget surplus from record production. Industry attempts to convince New Mexicans that the state’s public education system is wholly dependent on oil and gas are based on a tough truth: decades of steep tax cuts have indeed positioned fossil fuels as the thunder behind Democratic-led New Mexico’s economy. In 2021, 15 percent of the state’s general fund came from royalties, rents, and other fees that the Department of the Interior collects from mineral extraction on federal lands. Oil and gas activity across federal, state, and private lands contributes around a third of the state’s general fund of $7.2 billion, as well as a third of its education budget. The commissioner of public lands, Stephanie Garcia Richard, herself a former classroom teacher, has been at the forefront of efforts to diversify the New Mexican economy since she was elected to manage the state’s 13 million acres of public lands in 2018. “When I ran, in my first campaign, we talked a lot about how a school teacher really understands what every dime that this office makes means to a classroom.” Garcia Richard takes pride in being the first woman, Latina, and teacher to have been elected to head the office, which oversees about $1 billion in revenue generation each year. Since 2019, she’s launched a renewable energy office and outdoor recreation office to raise money from those activities, though Garcia Richard doesn’t believe that money will ever fully make up for oil and gas revenue. “I don’t want anybody ever to think that I have some notion that the revenue diversification strategies we’re pursuing right now somehow make a billion dollars.” Politicians sabotaging American energy producers should consider how much money from oil/gas taxes and fees pours into our public schools. Read more in this piece I wrote with .@RepWesterman, Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee!https://t.co/ewm1e3F0SS— Rep. Yvette Herrell (@RepHerrell) February 16, 2022 New Mexico’s attorney general, Hector Balderas, a Democrat, is another top state official charged with managing the state’s energy and economic transition. Given the same geographic features that make New Mexico the “land of enchantment,” the state is positioned to become a national leader in solar energy, Balderas said. But four of the state’s major solar farms are severely behind schedule. Balderas, who has accepted $49,900 in campaign contributions from oil and gas over seven election cycles, said that a sudden disruption in new oil and gas leasing such as the blanket moratorium the Biden administration originally proposed in January last year, would have an outsized impact on New Mexico’s most vulnerable. “You would cut out nearly a third of the revenue that we rely on to fund our schools and our roads and our law enforcement community,” he said. “I don’t think environmental activists really think about that perspective: how progressives have cleaner air but then thrust original Americans like Native American pueblos into further economic poverty.” Some on the receiving end of oil and gas revenue stress that not all educators and students embrace fossil fuel industry money in public schools. Mary Bissell is an algebra teacher at Cleveland high school in Rio Rancho, who co-signed a letter in November, along with more than 200 educators, asking NMOGA to “stop using New Mexico’s teachers and kids as excuses for more oil and gas development.” Bissell says in spite of how cash-strapped schools may be, many of her colleagues don’t want oil and gas money. “I’m not going to teach my kids how to find slope based on fracking,” she said of her math courses. Bissell characterized NMOGA’s attempt to portray educators as a unified force beholden to oil and gas funding as “disgusting.” In some states, including Rhode Island and Massachusetts, state attorneys general have taken it upon themselves, as the leading law enforcement and consumer protection officials, to sue oil and gas companies for deceiving consumers and investors about climate change through their marketing. Balderas’s office said it was not actively pursuing that strategy. Seneca Johnson, 20, a student leader with Youth United for Climate Action (Yucca), is from the Muscogee Nation of Oklahoma. Johnson grew up in New Mexico, and knows first hand about the state’s underfunded schools. “I remember in elementary school we would have a list: bring three boxes of tissues, or colored pencils,” she said, speaking of Chaparral elementary school in Santa Fe. “As students and as teachers, [you’re] buying the supplies for the classroom.” Johnson remembers being told as a child that the schools she attended ranked second worst in the nation. If New Mexico’s education system is indeed that bad, she said, how can officials continue to think that accepting a funding structure that delivers such a consistently poor result is a good idea? “At the end of the day the system that we have now that is being paid for by oil and gas doesn’t work, and we know it doesn’t work,” Johnson said. “It’s the whole ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ kind of mentality,” she said, linking the industry’s patronizing messaging around its support for schools to a direct legacy of colonization. “I don’t want to have to rely on this outside entity. I don’t want to have to rely on this broken system. I want better for my kids and their kids and my whole community.” The post How the Oil and Gas Industry Is Trying to Hold US Public Schools Hostage appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 5/2/22 12:52pm
By Eve Darian-Smith, University of California, Irvine Around the world, many countries are becoming less democratic. This backsliding on democracy and “creeping authoritarianism,” as the U.S. State Department puts it, is often supported by the same industries that are escalating climate change. In my new book, “Global Burning: Rising Antidemocracy and the Climate Crisis,” I lay out connections between these industries and the politicians who are both stalling action on climate change and diminishing democracy. It’s a dangerous shift, both for representative government and for the future climate. Corporate Capture of Environmental Politics In democratic systems, elected leaders are expected to protect the public’s interests, including from exploitation by corporations. They do this primarily through policies designed to secure public goods, such as clean air and unpolluted water, or to protect human welfare, such as good working conditions and minimum wages. But in recent decades, this core democratic principle that prioritizes citizens over corporate profits has been aggressively undermined. Today, it’s easy to find political leaders – on both the political right and left – working on behalf of corporations in energy, finance, agribusiness, technology, military and pharmaceutical sectors, and not always in the public interest. These multinational companies help fund their political careers and election campaigns to keep them in office. In the U.S., this relationship was cemented by the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United. The decision allowed almost unlimited spending by corporations and wealthy donors to support the political candidates who best serve their interests. Data shows that candidates with the most outside funding usually win. This has led to increasing corporate influence on politicians and party policies. When it comes to the political parties, it’s easy to find examples of campaign finance fueling political agendas. In 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen testified before a U.S. Senate committee about the greenhouse effect, both the Republican and Democratic parties took climate change seriously. But this attitude quickly diverged. Since the 1990s, the energy sector has heavily financed conservative candidates who have pushed its interests and helped to reduce regulations on the fossil fuel industry. This has enabled the expansion of fossil fuel production and escalated CO2 emissions to dangerous levels. The industry’s power in shaping policy plays out in examples like the coalition of 19 Republican state attorneys general and coal companies suing to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. At the same time that the energy sector has sought to influence policies on climate change, it has also worked to undermine the public’s understanding of climate science. For instance, records show ExxonMobil participated in a widespread climate-science denial campaign for years, spending more than US$30 million on lobbyists, think tanks and researchers to promote climate-science skepticism. These efforts continue today. A 2019 report found the five largest oil companies had spent over $1 billion on misleading climate-related lobbying and branding campaigns over the previous three years. The energy industry has in effect captured the democratic political process and prevented enactment of effective climate policies. Corporate interests have also fueled a surge in well-financed antidemocratic leaders who are willing to stall and even dismantle existing climate policies and regulations. These political leaders’ tactics have escalated public health crises, and in some cases, human rights abuses. Brazil, Australia and the U.S. Many deeply antidemocratic governments are tied to oil, gas and other extractive industries that are driving climate change, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and China. In “Global Burning,” I explore how three leaders of traditionally democratic countries – Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Scott Morrison of Australia and Donald Trump in the U.S. – came to power on anti-environment and nationalist platforms appealing to an extreme-right populist base and extractive corporations that are driving climate change. While the political landscape of each country is different, the three leaders have important commonalities. Bolsonaro, Morrison and Trump all depend on extractive corporations to fund electoral campaigns and keep them in office or, in the case of Trump, get reelected. For instance, Bolsonaro’s power depends on support from a powerful right-wing association of landowners and farmers called the União Democrática Ruralista, or UDR. This association reflects the interests of foreign investors and specifically the multibillion-dollar mining and agribusiness sectors. Bolsonaro promised that if elected in 2019, he would dismantle environmental protections and open, in the name of economic progress, industrial-scale soybean production and cattle grazing in the Amazon rainforest. Both contribute to climate change and deforestation in a fragile region considered crucial for keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. Bolsonaro, Morrison and Trump are all openly skeptical of climate science. Not surprisingly, all have ignored, weakened or dismantled environmental protection regulations. In Brazil, that led to accelerated deforestation and large swaths of Amazon rainforest burning. In Australia, Morrison’s government ignored widespread public and scientific opposition and opened the controversial Adani Carmichael mine, one of the largest coal mines in the world. The mine will impact public health and the climate and threatens the Great Barrier Reef as temperatures rise and ports are expanded along the coast. Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement – a move opposed by a majority of Americans – rolled back over 100 laws meant to protect the environment and opened national parks to fossil fuel drilling and mining. Notably, all three leaders have worked, sometimes together, against international efforts to stop climate change. At the United Nations climate talks in Spain in 2019, Costa Rica’s minister for environment and energy at the time, Carlos Manuel Rodriguez, blamed Brazil, Australia and the U.S. for blocking efforts to tackle climate injustice linked to global warming. Brazil, Australia and the U.S. are not unique in these responses to climate change. Around the world, there have been similar convergences of antidemocratic leaders who are financed by extractive corporations and who implement anti-environment laws and policies that defend corporate profits. New to the current moment is that these leaders openly use state power against their own citizens to secure corporate land grabs to build dams, lay pipelines, dig mines and log forests. For example, Trump supported the deployment of the National Guard to disperse Native Americans and environmental activists protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, a project that he had personally been invested in. His administration also proposed harsher penalties for pipeline protesters that echoed legislation promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, whose members include lawmakers and lobbyists for the oil industry. Several Republican-led states enacted similar anti-protest laws. Under Bolsonaro, Brazil has changed laws in ways that embolden land grabbers to push small farmers and Indigenous people off their land in the rainforest. What Can People Do About It? Fortunately, there is a lot that people can do to protect democracy and the climate. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and reducing the destruction of forests can cut greenhouse gas emissions. The biggest obstacles, a recent U.N. climate report noted, are national leaders who are unwilling to regulate fossil fuel corporations, reduce greenhouse gas emissions or plan for renewable energy production. The path forward, as I see it, involves voters pushing back on the global trend toward authoritarianism, as Slovenia did in April 2022, and pushing forward on replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. People can reclaim their democratic rights and vote out anti-environment governments whose power depends on prioritizing extractive capitalism over the best interests of their citizens and our collective humanity. Eve Darian-Smith, Professor of Global and International Studies, University of California, Irvine This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article. The post Rising Authoritarianism and Worsening Climate Change Share a Fossil-fueled Secret appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 4/29/22 6:00am
By Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams. Originally published on Common Dreams. A group of House Democrats on Wednesday sent letters to 13 of the top U.S. insurers, urging them to stop profiting from the expansion of fossil fuels while ripping the rug out from under the communities most affected by climate change. U.S. Reps. Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Mondaire Jones (D-NY) led 14 colleagues in calling on the companies to end underwriting and investing in fossil fuel projects. Continued investment in the expansion of fossil fuels stands in direct contradiction to the scientific consensus and the United States obligations under the Paris climate agreement, the lawmakers told the companies. It also harms communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis and threatens financial stability at large. No U.S. insurance company has adopted comprehensive restrictions on underwriting and investments in fossil fuel expansion. The Democrats demand came after the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released earlier this month. The lawmakers cite the global bodys findings as well as the Biden administrations emissions pledge to meet the aims of the Paris agreement. The IPCC and the Biden administration agree that it is critical to limit global temperature rise to below 1.5°C above preindustrial levels to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change on our communities, the letters state, referencing the bolder Paris goal. To stay below a 1.5°C threshold, the International Energy Agency has made clear that there can be no new development of fossil fuel projects. Despite the scientific consensus, no U.S. insurance company has adopted comprehensive restrictions on underwriting and investments in fossil fuel expansion, the letters note. While we are encouraged that some U.S. insurers have taken steps to restrict investment in the most polluting fossil fuels, including coal and tar sands, fossil fuel expansion of any kind is inconsistent with current scientific realities. Major insurance companies have been funding fossil fuel projects despite the climate risks. They’re profiting off fossil fuel but raising prices for customers and putting our economy and financial system at risk. My colleagues and I are calling them out.https://t.co/msx9HQld91— Rep. Mondaire Jones (@RepMondaire) April 27, 2022 The lawmakers targeted American Insurance Group, Chubb, Berkshire Hathaway, Liberty Mutual, Travelers, the Hartford, Starr Insurance Companies, W.R. Berkley, FM Global, Markel, Skyward Specialty Insurance, Lincoln, and Great American Insurance Group. U.S. insurers remain well behind their global peers on mitigating climate risk, the letters assert, pointing out that the companies continue to be among the largest insurers of oil and gas in the world, supporting new fossil fuel projects that our planet can ill afford. By enabling the expansion of fossil fuels, the insurance industry is putting its own financial viability and our economic stability at large in peril, the letters warn. The increase in frequency and severity of wildfires, floods, hurricanes, and droughts will disrupt supply chains, compress corporate profits, drive up insurance claims, reduce the availability of insurance, and generally limit the ability of affected borrowers to repay debt. In a statement shared by the lawmakers, leaders from advocacy groups that have long pressured insurers to ditch the dirty energy industry echoed the argument. Insurance companies must understand that backing dead-end fossil fuel development is as bad for business as it is for our families and the animals and resources we depend on to survive. Bernadette Demientieff Insurance companies are meant to protect us from catastrophic risks, but the industrys ongoing support for fossil fuel expansion puts the communities they serve and our planet in peril, declared Deanna Noël, climate campaign director at Public Citizen. U.S. insurers continue to lag behind their global counterparts by refusing to rule out support for new oil and gas, even as companies like Chubb and Liberty Mutual are dropping coverage for some California homeowners at risk of climate-driven wildfires, she continued. This trend will only get worse if the insurance industry continues to enable new oil and gas projects. Anything short of an end to fossil fuel expansion is a slap in the face to future generations and further diminishes our ability to avert climate catastrophe. Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwichin Steering Committee — which has led the fight against fossil fuel extraction in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge — said that insurance companies must understand that backing dead-end fossil fuel development is as bad for business as it is for our families and the animals and resources we depend on to survive. Climate change already impacts Indigenous peoples at a greater rate than the rest of the world, and we will never stop using our strength and our voices to protect every being and element that feeds our bodies and spirit, she added. Its time for every insurance company to ensure the rights of the Indigenous Peoples and wildlife who rely on the Arctic refuge for survival instead of insuring oil drillers who will destroy this sacred place. The post House Dems Call On Top U.S. Insurers to End Backing of Fossil Fuel Projects appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 4/27/22 11:00am
By Aaron Cantu, Capital & Main. This story originally appeared in Capital & Main and is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story. Amid the industry’s calls for more oil and gas production due to the Ukraine war and the federal government opening public land to drilling, California approved more new wells in March and April than in any two-month period since last October. The California Geologic Energy Management Division so far has approved 89 in March and April, compared to 67 the first two months of the year and 35 the last three months of 2021 (most in October). Excluding new wells approved for water disposal — a form of underground injection that oil companies use to dispose of wastewater produced during oil and gas drilling — the rate of new well approvals rose 500 percent from January and February to March and April.CalGEM says the rise isn’t due to the war, but to a court ruling that temporarily threw out a controversial ordinance allowing Kern County to rubber stamp environmental approval for wells. Now authority has reverted back to CalGEM, which started approving more wells to meet a March deadline on operators’ permit applications, an agency spokesperson said. A trial on May 26 will determine the fate of the county ordinance. Regulators are aware that the industry wants more drilling. Records obtained by Capital & Main show that four days after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, the California Independent Petroleum Association sent a weekly news bulletin to CalGEM regulators proposing they approve permits as a way of relieving pressure at the pump — a link that isn’t so straightforward, experts say. Even before the Ukraine conflict provided the industry with a rationalization to push for more drilling, it was leaning on powerful political influencers to fight restrictions on fossil fuel production. In addition, the industry’s reach keeps extending into state government as Gov. Gavin Newsom recently hired a former oil lobbyist as his top legislative staffer, though it’s unclear if this has had any impact on oil permitting. Elite Campaigners and Law Firms Lobby for Drilling One of the more powerful industry groups, the California Independent Petroleum Association has long pushed for the state to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, and its website directs users to the website for a group called Californians for Energy Independence, which features videos promoting drilling. Lobbying filings show that Californians for Energy Independence paid $1.15 million in 2021 to Winner & Mandabach Campaigns, a top ballot campaign expert in the state and country. The group also sent $269,250 to BASK Digital Media, a company run by one of its principals, Adam Stoll, who is also the president of a Republican-focused media placement company. It’s part of the $77.5 million that the industry spent lobbying in total in the state between 2018 and 2021 — four times what environmental organizations spent and almost six times clean energy firms’ expenditures. Most of the lobbying dollars from Californians for Energy Independence were used to defeat legislation to build buffer zones between oil and gas wells and sensitive sites like homes and schools; the Newsom administration has proposed its own rules to remedy this health hazard, though they contain loopholes. Winner & Mandabach didn’t respond to an inquiry as to whether they were working with the group again this year. It worked with Californians for Energy Independence in 2016 to oppose a local ballot initiative to ban fracking in Monterey County. The industry lost that vote, but succeeded in defeating an anti-fracking ballot proposal in San Luis Obispo County two years later — a campaign in which Winner & Mandabach was accused of deceptive practices. An aerial view of fracking in California. Credit: Lindsey J. Smith The firm’s two principals, Charles Winner and Paul Mandabach, have decades of history fighting environmental ballot initiatives in California and beyond, sometimes using misleading tactics. Winner, who died in March, began his career as an assistant to Gov. Pat Brown in 1958 and was appointed chairman of the California Horse Racing Board by Gov. Jerry Brown more than 50 years later. In 2020, the firm successfully steered Proposition 22, the Uber-backed ballot initiative that classified app workers as independent contractors, and Proposition 14, which made billions available for stem cell research. Newsom was notoriously silent about the former and endorsed the latter. The oil and gas industry also has ties to high-powered lobbying firm Nielsen Merksamer, which counts the California Chamber of Commerce among its clients. Firm partner Steven Lucas is listed as the registered agent for Californians for Energy Independence, meaning he is designated to receive official documents for the group, including notices of litigation. Lucas was also the initial registered agent for the California Labor Oil Management Alliance, which represents the interests of both the Western States Petroleum Association and the State Building and Construction Trades Council — a political alliance that opposes regulations on oil drilling and refining. Another Nielsen Merksamer lawyer, James Carson, is listed as the alliance’s most recent registered agent. Name partners Chip Nielsen and Steven Merksamer have had long careers both in Sacramento and the private sector. Two years ago, Merksamer introduced Newsom for a discussion on energy, wildfires, and climate hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California, of which Merksamer is currently chair of the board. Newsom’s New Hire Lobbied for Marathon Petroleum Last month, the Newsom administration also hired a former lobbyist named Christy Bouma as its new legislative affairs secretary. Since 2008, Bouma had been president of Capitol Connection, a firm that she joined in 2000. While there, she lobbied on behalf of Marathon Petroleum, according to lobbying filings. Capitol Connection worked alongside another firm that has several ties to Newsom, Axiom Advisors, to represent Marathon Petroleum. Although the company doesn’t drill for oil in California, it transports and refines petroleum from the state’s oilfields. The company’s hired guns lobbied on legislation that could have impacted these businesses, even opposing a bill, AB 480, to tighten oversight after hazardous spills. A spokesperson in the governor’s press office didn’t comment on Bouma’s former clients, but sent a statement praising her “extensive leadership across sectors, wide-ranging expertise and record of legislative success.” Environmentalists Also Ramping Up Their Activity Even as the industry steps up its campaign for more drilling, climate advocates are also accelerating their activism. On April 8, protesters at nearly a dozen rallies across the state called for a total ban on oil extraction in California and a faster transition to renewable energy, as well as stronger protections for communities living with pollution from nearby wells. In addition to sustaining the fossil fuel economy, the carbon intensity of California’s oil — meaning the amount of climate-warming gasses emitted just to get it out of the ground — increased from 2018 to 2020. “We are taking action because extreme fires, drought and heat — fueled by the climate crisis — are already taking their toll on Californians. We are taking action because we believe in worker power, unionization and taking back what we are owed. Most importantly, we are taking action because we deserve to live in a world with clean air and water,” said Maricruz Ramirez from the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment in a statement. “Governor Gavin Newsom must strengthen the setbacks and say no to new permits for oil wells in order for that to be a possibility.” The post California Oil and Gas Industry Leans on Political Heavyweights to Drill Wells appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 4/26/22 6:25am
Indigenous leaders have called on Citigroup to stop financing oil and gas projects in the Amazon, saying the bank’s activities contradict its climate pledges by putting the threatened ecosystem at greater risk.  Citigroup, a leading financier of the fossil fuel industry, has sought to position itself as a climate leader in the past year, pledging to slash emissions from its portfolio to net zero by 2050, and announcing a coal phase-out. But Indigenous leaders speaking ahead of the U.S. bank’s annual general (AGM) meeting on Tuesday said that its role in enabling the expansion of the oil and gas industry was pushing the Amazon rainforest closer to the brink of collapse. The call aligns with a shareholder resolution submitted to the AGM urging the bank to end all financing for new fossil fuel projects – part of a series of similar, largely symbolic resolutions being filed at U.S. banks in the coming weeks.   “Oil drilling in our Amazon has brought contamination, disease, deforestation, destruction of our cultures, and the colonization of our territories. It is an existential threat for us and violates our fundamental rights as Indigenous peoples,” said Nemo Andy Guiquita, a Waorani Indigenous leader and Women and Health Coordinator for the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon, or Confeniae. “We are calling for an end to all new extraction on our lands, and as our ancestors and science now affirm, we must keep fossil fuels in the ground,” she said in a statement. Indigenous groups including Confeniae took part in a protest against the world’s largest fossil fuel financier, JP Morgan, at the COP26 U.N. climate talks in Glasgow late last year. The bank – a US rival to Citi – is helping fund the Coastal Gaslink pipeline, which threatens First Nation lands in Canada. Citigroup did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Jane Fraser, the bank’s chief executive, who announced the net zero target on her first day in the role in March, 2021, outlined the bank’s approach to climate change in a blog post this January.  “We know it is not enough to say Citi is committed to tackling climate change. Thats the easy part,” Fraser wrote. “As the worlds most global bank, we can help drive the transition to a net zero economy and make good on the promise of the Paris Agreement.” Second Largest Fossil Fuel Funder Citigroup’s role in the Amazon partly reflects its legacy as the world’s second largest fossil-fuel funding bank overall, having channeled more than $250 billion into fossil fuel projects worldwide since the Paris Agreement on climate change was signed at the end of 2015, according to environmental non-profit Bank Track.  But the bank also has a uniquely high exposure to the region, serving as the leading international lender to state-run oil companies in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, and Brazil, according to a new report by The Exit Amazon Oil and Gas campaign, led by advocacy groups Stand.earth and Amazon Watch in partnership with Amazonian Indigenous organizations.  Between 2016 and 2020, Citigroup provided an estimated $43.8 billion worth of finance and investment to oil and gas companies operating in the Amazon basin, contributing to deforestation, pollution and infringement of Indigenous land rights, the report found. Campaigners are demanding Citigroup follow the cue of European peers including ING, Credit-Suisse, Natixis, Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, and Intesa that introduced various Amazon-related restrictions after a 2020 report revealed their financial links to the region.  “Activists are fed up with Citis greenwashing. It cant call itself a climate leader while pouring billions into oil and gas exploitation anywhere, let alone on Indigenous territories in the Amazon,” said Pendle Marshall-Hallmark, climate and finance campaigner at Amazon Watch. “Citi’s fossil fuel financing is razing the rainforest, spewing oil into local water sources, and destroying our climate. It has to stop now.” A DeSmog investigation published last year found that current board members of Citi – such as former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, had experience working for major polluting companies. Zedillo had previously worked as an adviser for global oil and gas giant BP and as a director for the Mexican state-run oil company Pemex. California-based asset manager Harrington Investments has submitted a shareholder resolution to the AGM calling on Citigroup to end all financing for new fossil fuel projects. The resolution seeks to bring the bank in line with the Paris-based International Energy Agency’s (IEA) finding last year that there can be no investment in new coal, oil or natural gas projects if the world is to have a chance of limiting the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5C in line with the Paris climate accord.  Although observers say the resolution has little chance of passing, campaigners are seeking to highlight the mismatch between the IEA’s warning and continued financing for fossil fuels with a series of parallel resolutions at Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley.  Construction takes place in the Yasuní National Park, where the Ecuadorian state oil company, Petroecuador, is developing new oil wells. Credit: Amazon Watch ‘Amazon Exclusion Policy’ With heavily-indebted countries in the Amazon basin reeling from the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, governments are hoping to boost export earnings by opening up new tracts of rainforest to oil exploration. In Ecuador, where President Guillermo Lasso has pledged to double oil production, Citigroup is one of the only U.S. banks that has been providing funding to the state oil company Petroecuador, the Exit Amazon Oil and Gas report said.  Drilling is expanding in the country’s Yasuní National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in areas near Indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation, with concessions spanning approximately 30,000 square kilometres of rainforest due to be auctioned this year. “Many of those expansion projects are slated for extraction in largely pristine and roadless Amazon rainforest,” the report said. In Peru, Citigroup is one of a group of banks extending a 10-year, $1.3 billion loan to the state-owned oil company Petroperu, which is planning to expand into the ancestral territory of the Achuar and Wampis people, who have a long tradition of strongly opposing drilling. “Our collective fight to defend our lands and prevent oil drilling is not just a fight to protect our own communities but to protect the entire planet from the climate crisis we all face,” said Nelton Yankur, president of the Federation of the Achuar Nationality of Peru. “The banks that finance the extraction and expansion of oil in the Amazon are complicit in genocide against Indigenous peoples and in the perpetuation of a climate crisis that is an existential threat to all of us.” Scientists warn that deforestation is rapidly driving the Amazon towards a “tipping point” that would lead to the collapse of the rainforest ecosystem, robbing Indigenous people of their home, and the world of a critical carbon sink to buffer against catastrophic climate change.  Against this backdrop, campaigners want Citigroup and other banks to adopt an “Amazon oil and gas exclusion policy” modeled on an Indigenous-led campaign that prompted Citigroup and other major lenders to rule out finance for Arctic oil drilling.  ‘Critical Opportunity’ Citigroup points to its 2030 emissions targets as evidence it is taking climate change seriously. In January, it became the first big U.S. bank to set an absolute target to reduce so-called “financed” emissions from the energy sector – committing to a 29 percent reduction by the end of the decade.  Campaigners say such targets mean little if the bank is continuing to support the oil industry’s expansion into some of the last intact bastions of the Amazon rainforest.  “The Amazon is the last place on the planet where oil drilling should be expanding, so Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser has a critical opportunity before her,” said Tyson Miller, Amazon campaigns director at Stand.earth. “Will she show a new kind of leadership and commit to aligning bank policy with what the world needs and what generations of Indigenous peoples and concerned citizens are calling for, or will she allow for business as usual and continued degradation of the Amazon?”  The post ‘Existential Threat’: Indigenous Leaders Urge Citigroup to Stop Backing Amazon Oil appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 4/25/22 10:05am
Activists and scientists have found alarming levels of radioactivity in samples collected along the road and soils outside Austin Master Services, an oilfield waste processing facility with a history of sloppy practices in eastern Ohio. The facility is located just down the street from a high school football stadium and less than 1,000 feet from a set of city drinking water wells, raising public health concerns from a nuclear forensics scientist about the extent of possible radioactive contamination.  Last November, members of two advocacy groups, Concerned Ohio River Residents and Mountain Watershed Association, collected soil samples from outside the Martins Ferry, Ohio facility of Austin Master Services, a Pottstown, Pennsylvania-based company that operates in 10 states. Both groups are concerned about the handling of radioactive oilfield waste in their region, which has seen over a decade of intensive fracking development in the Marcellus and Utica shale formations.  All of that oil and gas drilling produces huge volumes of liquid and solid waste that need treatment and disposal. Oilfield waste service companies pick it up directly at the wellhead, and sometimes perform an initial processing, before bringing some of it to facilities like Austin Master’s for additional treatment. But how well-prepared such companies are to handle the industry’s radioactive waste is being increasingly called into question. For instance, a DeSmog investigation has revealed that railcars carrying radioactive oilfield waste from Austin Master in Martins Ferry have arrived leaking at a final disposal facility in Utah on multiple occasions between 2015 and 2020. Over the years, conditions at Austin Master have raised concerns from inspectors and advocacy groups alike. The Austin Master Service oilfield waste processing facility (top right) is located in Martins Ferry, Ohio, down the street from a high school football stadium and along the Ohio River. June 2021. Credit: Ted Auch, FracTracker Alliance. Aerial support provided by LightHawk. (CC BY-NC 2.0) James Cato, with the southwestern Pennsylvania-based environmental advocacy group, Mountain Watershed Association, recalls the day he and other volunteers first took soil samples on the public roadway near the Ohio oilfield waste facility. “It was a bright cloudless morning but the dirt road to Austin Masters was hazy with dust stirred up from truck traffic,” says Cato. “Between [Austin Master] and the nearby asphalt plant, a sour scent clung to everything and dust buffeted our goggles and protective masks whenever a waste truck blew by.” He added that their radiation detectors activity was especially notable in this location, emitting near constant rapid beeping.  The Ohio and Pennsylvania advocacy groups sent the Austin Master samples to Marco Kaltofen, a nuclear forensics scientist in Massachusetts who has extensive experience examining radioactive waste from the nuclear weapons, nuclear power generation, and oil and gas industries. Before the activists gathered the samples, Kaltofen advised them on appropriately handling and shipping the potentially radioactive samples. After reviewing them, he then sent the samples to Eberline Analytical, a radiological analysis lab in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The relatively high levels of radioactivity in the results, returned in February, immediately caught Kaltofen’s attention. “This needs to be fixed,” he says. They found levels of radium-226 at 14.1 picocuries per gram, and radium-228 at 3.7 picocuries per gram. Radium is one of several naturally occurring radioactive elements well-known to occur in oilfield waste. Soil nationwide generally has a radium background level of about 1 picocurie per gram, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit for topsoil at uranium mills and Superfund toxic waste dumps is 5 picocuries per gram above background levels. The samples analyzed by Eberline also showed elevated levels of radioactive forms of lead and thorium.  “This is an impressive source of contamination. These numbers are well above background and excessive,” says Kaltofen. “I have very grave concern about the accidental inhalation and ingestion of these particles. My concern here is wind is going to move this out into the neighborhood.” The radioactive dust and soil may settle in yards where children play, he says, and kids tend to dig around in grass and dirt, and then touch their fingers to their mouths.   This is especially worrisome, according to Kaltofen, because radium is considered a “bone-seeker.” If accidentally inhaled or ingested, the radioactive element tends to accumulate in the bones, where it continues emitting radiation and can lead to cancer. “Radium 226 is a potent source of radiation exposure, both internal and external,” notes a 1982 report that discusses oilfield radioactivity hazards and was produced by the American Petroleum Institute’s Department of Medicine and Biology’s Committee for Environmental Biology and Community Health.  During a 2021 visit, a state inspector noted a storage bin containing a type of oilfield waste that is typically radioactive was beyond capacity at Austin Master Services Martins Ferry location. A 2019 report described such a practice as an improper storing method and does not protect public health and safety and the environment. Credit: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, February 25, 2021 inspection report Although the EPA does not regulate oilfield radioactivity, it does have a web page with information on the topic. “Maintenance workers include those who work directly on top of uncovered waste sites,” the EPA page states. “Potential risks assessed for these workers include inhalation of radioactive dust.” Risks for members of the public working or residing within roughly 100 yards of a disposal site are very low, continues EPA, but include, “Inhalation of contaminated dust,” “Ingestion of contaminated well water,” “Ingestion of food contaminated by well water,” and “Ingestion of food contaminated by dust deposition.” Kaltofen explained that any time oilfield waste is moved around in piles at a processing facility such as Austin Master, dust is inevitably created. Even if the waste is wet, it will eventually dry and create dust, and this dust would invariably have some of the radioactive elements common to oilfield waste attached, such as radium. He added that the buildup of radioactive elements common to oilfield waste directly in front of a facility processing copious amounts of oilfield waste points to Austin Master as the likely source.  After receiving the initial round of concerning results near Austin Master in February, Concerned Ohio River Residents (CORR) sent the Eberline lab a second batch of samples taken along the public roadway adjacent to the Martins Ferry facility and also a nearby city park and cemetery. Results showed an increase in radioactivity closer to the facility. For example, levels of radium-226 recorded at the park, just over a mile from the facility, and the cemetery, just over half a mile, fell around average soil background levels or just above them. But levels taken along the road to Austin Master ticked up from 3.76 picocuries per gram, about 900 feet from the facility’s main entrance, to 14.66 picocuries per gram less than 150 feet from the entrance. Based on the path of samples taken by members of CORR, a growing trail of radioactivity leads to Austin Master’s door. During a visit on February 22, 2018, a state inspector noted Waste near the warehouse building entrance/exit at Austin Master Services Martins Ferry, Ohio, facility. Credit: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, February 22, 2018 inspection report Austin Master Services has authorization with the state of Ohio to annually receive 120 million pounds of radioactive oilfield waste. Despite the dangers this type of waste poses, a 1980 federal exemption has deemed it to be non-hazardous and therefore exempt from federal rules that would otherwise apply to hazardous waste. On April 4, Concerned Ohio River Residents held a press event in Martins Ferry and demanded that state officials issue orders to immediately stop work at the Austin Master facility due to public health and environmental concerns. The group also requested that the EPA perform an inspection of the entire facility, and has said it will push for the plant to become a Superfund site, an official designation reserved for massively contaminated lands and environmental emergencies that would make funds available for cleanup. EPA has not replied to questions regarding these requests. “We want them to invoke their law and do their own testing of the whole entire area,” Beverly Reed, an Ohio Valley business owner and member of Concerned Ohio River Residents, stated at the press event.  We want the site cleaned up and properly monitored, Reed continued, before the situation becomes “a crisis.”  Chris Martin, a spokesperson for Austin Master, has not replied to a request for comment regarding Concerned Ohio River Residents’ sampling results. Oilfield Waste: A Long Arc of Documented Contamination in Fracking Country Oil and gas development generates several voluminous waste streams, both liquid and solid. The radioactive signature of oilfield waste has been acknowledged by the oil and gas industry for decades, well before the advent of modern fracking in the 1990s and early 2000s. And research by the U.S. Geological Survey indicates that oilfield waste generated in the Marcellus and Utica has particularly high radioactivity levels, leading to “the potential for surface and aqueous radium hazards if not properly disposed of.” The processing of radioactive oilfield waste has proved enormously problematic for the oil and gas industry and its regulators, and given rise to a booming service sector of facilities like those run by Austin Master that collect, treat, and process the waste. Part of the problem is that a significant amount of oilfield waste is too radioactive to be shipped directly to traditional landfills. Instead, it must be “down-blended,” or mixed with material like lime or a corn cob base to lower the radioactive signature. Waste with low radioactivity levels can then be shipped to local landfills, while more radioactive waste must be shipped to secure disposal facilities out West. The practice is poorly regulated and leaves room for considerable operator error and potential malfeasance.  These operators took a lot and got in over their heads, a longtime industry insider told DeSmog of Lotus LLCs operating practices for radioactive oil and gas waste in West Texas. Credit: Justin Hamel ©2021 In February 2021, DeSmog reported on a West Virginia facility processing radioactive oilfield waste that went up in flames, and in April 2021, DeSmog reported on a radioactive oilfield waste disposal facility in West Texas repeatedly flagged by state regulators for its inappropriate disposal practices.  A 2018 EPA report on oilfield waste treatment centers in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia found expired permits and ill-prepared operators at some facilities. Furthermore, it uncovered elevated levels of heavy metals and radioactive substances in the environment near the facilities, raising the concern of “potential impacts to both aquatic life and human health.” But due in part to oil and gas’s federal exemption from its waste being labeled “hazardous,” it receives a monumental pass on regulations. EPA spokesperson Enesta Jones tells DeSmog, “EPA does not regulate radioactivity in oil and gas production, processing and transport systems.” Jones pointed to state agencies as having the authority to track and regulate oil and gas waste and its radioactivity. Yet local and national environmental groups have been increasingly critical of the ability of oil and gas states across the country to appropriately regulate the oilfield waste industry.  “Industry is reaping the benefits of having so many places and ways to cheaply dispose of its waste, and communities are bearing the burden of that cheap disposal,” says Megan Hunter, a senior attorney with Earthjustice, a national environmental nonprofit closely tracking oilfield waste contamination in the Ohio River Valley region. Waste Falling Off the Truck”  The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) does regulate the state’s roughly two dozen oilfield waste processing facilities, but in a limited way. In 2014, Austin Master received an ODNR order, known as a Chief’s Order, giving the company temporary approval to “process, recycle, and treat brine” and other oilfield waste. According to this regulatory document, the waste is to be “tested for radiological concentration of Radium 226 and Radium 228 prior to processing and packaging,” and then shipped to “an appropriate disposal facility” by truck or railcar.  ODNR does inspect such “Chief’s Order” facilities, and these reports provide a trail of documents showing just how radioactive waste has been allowed to spill out of the facility. For example, on September 7, 2018, the inspector noticed “one blue frac tank being removed from the facility onto the public roadway and waste was falling off the truck.” Austin Master staff were “outside cleaning up the parking lot and public roadway with a bobcat and brush.”  dc.embed.loadNote('https://embed.documentcloud.org/documents/21699065-sept-7-2018-inspex-report_odnr/annotations/2098891.js'); View note On September 7, 2018, a state inspector documented tire tracks through the waste, and concluded it appears waste is being tracked out of the facility and onto the ground at Austin Master Services Martins Ferry, Ohio, facility. Credit: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, September 7, 2018 inspection report In an earlier visit on February 22, 2018, inspectors observed waste “splattered on the floor,” “splashed onto the warehouse wall,” and also “in the proximity of the electrical panels.” The Austin Master facility also has had a persistently leaky roof. Over the years, the state’s inspectors have warned that this “increases the opportunity for the waste to be tracked from the warehouse and is a hazard for the workers” and lamented the ongoing issue of “tracking of waste outside of the building.” dc.embed.loadNote('https://embed.documentcloud.org/documents/21699064-feb-22-2018-inspex-report_odnr/annotations/2098888.js'); View note In 2017, a state inspector called attention to waste being stored directly on the floor at Austin Master Services Martins Ferry, Ohio, facility, and, as in the above photo, leached sludge and liquid on the floor next to piles of radioactive oilfield waste. Credit: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, July 5, 2017 inspection report State regulators have documented waste at relatively high radioactivity levels being prepared for transport out of the facility. On February 12, 2019, inspectors with the Ohio Department of Health noted that radiation levels on “a large ‘burrito’ bag of waste” waiting to be loaded into a railcar measured 73 times the facility’s background levels. Radioactivity levels more than twice the background are “positive indication of contamination, and should be handled as such,” according to a 2016 report of the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers. dc.embed.loadNote('https://embed.documentcloud.org/documents/21699062-feb-12-2019-rad-report_odnr/annotations/2098884.js'); View note Furthermore, three inspections in 2017 all state, “Austin Masters is currently operating outside of the approved application documents, that constitute the authorization included in the Chief’s Order.” Despite these repeated transgressions, Stephanie O’Grady, an ODNR spokesperson, says, “The Division does not have the authority to levy fines, none the less, the Division strives to ensure regulated entities are complying with Chief’s Orders, Ohio law and rule.” While after September 2018 some inspection reports note improvements at the plant, others continue to detail alarming practices. After being put through a tree shredder, piles of filter socks, one of the more radioactive streams of oil and gas industry waste, lie inside a bin at Austin Master Services Martins Ferry, Ohio, location. Credit: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, April 18, 2019 inspection report One of the more radioactive and problematic streams of waste the oil and gas industry produces are known as “filter socks.” These long thin mesh bags filter sediment at injection wells, where oilfield waste is injected deep into the earth for long-term disposal. At Austin Master’s Martins Ferry facility, Ohio inspectors learned that filter socks were being put through “a tree shredder,” and during another visit, torn apart by a piece of processing equipment called a “Muffin Monster.”  “The problem here is that workers will inhale or ingest the cloud of radioactive dusts created by the tree shredder,” says Kaltofen, the nuclear forensics scientist. “Even if wet, the spatter from the shredder must eventually dry, creating a breathing hazard. Wet spatter from the shredder can coat the clothing and exposed skin of workers, exposing them to radium hazards. Workers’ skin can also become coated with this radioactive material, and either absorb it, or contaminate their families.”  Shredded filter socks, one of the more radioactive forms of oilfield waste, after going through a shredder at Austin Master Services Martins Ferry, Ohio, site. Credit: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, November 20, 2019 inspection report Wilma Subra, a Louisiana toxicologist whose work assessing community contamination from radioactive oilfield waste helped earn her the prestigious “MacArthur Genius Grant”, in 1999, says that oilfield workers carrying contamination home to their families has been well documented. She cites an example in which one man the state of Louisiana tested had radioactivity all over his clothes, his car, his front steps, and even on his newborn baby. “There is nothing unusual or harmful about AMS’s process,” says Chris Martin, a company spokesperson, in response to questions about the company’s practices. “Austin Master Services takes a responsible approach to providing valuable waste remediation services and jobs in the Martins Ferry community.”  This past January, new rules governing Ohio’s oil and gas waste facilities took effect, and operators will have six months to come into compliance. However, observers note that these rules may not address concerns about how close these facilities are to communities and drinking water sources.  “They have new siting criteria, which is good, but it won’t apply to existing facilities, and it is waivable for the new facilities,” says Hunter, the Earthjustice attorney. “So, there is a lot of room for discretion.” Leaky Railcars of Radioactive Oilfield Waste Crossing the United States From March 2015 through March 2020, more than 76 million pounds of oilfield waste, too radioactive to end up in local landfills, were shipped in railcars from Austin Master’s Ohio facility across the country to a disposal site in Utah. According to files provided to DeSmog by EnergySolutions, those shipments were discovered to be leaking on five occasions. This desert destination, a disposal facility operated by EnergySolutions, accepts radioactive waste from the nuclear power generation and medical industries, and to a lesser extent, the type originating at oil and gas drilling sites and handled by Austin Master.  In response to questioning from DeSmog regarding the rail car leaks, Tim Orton, EnergySolutions director of technical services, says, “There is a potential that the waste had leaked all the way across the country,” but his company analyzed the spilled waste in each instance and “did not find any radioactivity in any of [the] spilled liquid.” At its Utah disposal facility in February 2020, EnergySolutions documented an oily substance leaking onto the ground from a railcar of radioactive oilfield waste originating from Austin Master Services Martins Ferry, Ohio, facility. Credit: EnergySolutions He blames the leaky railcars that arrived at his facility on the operator that initially loaded them with radioactive waste.  “If the waste is managed correctly on the shipping end (ensuring the moisture content is low enough to not come out during transport; having good liners within the railcars, proper inspection of the railcars, etc.) there shouldn’t be any issues when the waste arrives at our facility,” says Orton in an email. “When you consider the entirety of shipments sent (390), the amount of leaking shipments was minimal (<5%).” On other occasions shipments arrived from Austin Master to EnergySolutions’ Utah facility without manifests, with ripped liners, and with “torn load wrappers.” Orton says, “the waste was transported by CSX Transportation and arrived on the Union Pacific rail line.” “Under the interstate commerce laws, CSX, as a railroad, is a common carrier that is required to transport any commodity, including hazardous materials, tendered to us,” stated a CSX spokesperson. “The CSX chemical safety and hazardous materials teams work closely with customers, first responders and local communities to manage the safe movement of hazardous materials on our rail network and to protect the public in the event of unexpected incidents. We have not had a documented release of product associated with Austin Master Services as the shipper, so we have had no reason to perform any testing for product release along the CSX owned rail corridor.” As the trains carrying this radioactive waste cross the country from Ohio to Utah, they travel through the U.S. heartland, with Kansas smack in the middle of the most direct route. “Reports of potentially radioactive fracking waste impacting Kansas residents should be treated with utmost urgency and concern from our state and federal regulators,” says Ty Gorman, a Sierra Club representative in Kansas. “The stakes are too high for this pattern of seeming negligence to continue.” Orton, with EnergySolutions, has also provided information that raises a new concern.  He says that Austin Master’s contract with EnergySolutions expired on February 28, 2020, and has not been resumed.  This raises the question: where has all of Austin Master’s more highly radioactive oilfield waste been going since that date, and where is it presently going?  Austin Master has not provided an answer to this question. ODNR said the agency does not keep track of where waste goes once it leaves the Austin Master facility in Martins Ferry. “We do not collect information regarding waste disposal manifests from oil and gas waste facilities,” stated O’Grady, the ODNR spokesperson. “The location for waste disposal is a business practice, overseen by the proprietors of the facility. As a regulatory agency, our job is to ensure that the Austin Masters facility is operating in accordance with the chief’s order that they have been granted. That chief’s order does not permit them to dispose of oilfield waste at the facility. We perform regular inspections at Austin Masters to ensure they continue to operate in compliance with the terms of that order, and there have been no waste-disposal violations during any inspections since February 28, 2020.”  Looking for Answers  DeSmog sent Austin Master a detailed list of questions regarding waste management practices, worker safety measures, and the ultimate destination of the waste the facility processes. DeSmog specifically informed Austin Master that ODNR inspection reports show continual releases of waste into the environment beyond the Martins Ferry facility and asked, “What if anything has Austin Master done to mitigate these releases and alter these practices?” Chris Martin, who runs a public relations and marketing communications firm called Atlas Marketing, and says he speaks for Austin Master, defended the company and its practices as responsible and typical of the industry. “Like many local wastewater treatment facilities, AMS remediates wet waste that arrives at our facility. Our process utilizes a hydraulic press that facilitates the capture and treatment of water within a self contained wastewater treatment system. Ultimately, the remediated waste materials are dewatered and removed from the facility.” “Unfortunately, AMS has been targeted and scapegoated with blatant misinformation and illegitimate claims,” Martin added. “Particularly because AMS is one of the smaller businesses in its industry, these reckless and inflammatory fabrications have only served to create an unjust advantage for AMS’s competitors and larger companies in the industry, which ultimately harms AMS’s employees and the local economy of Martins Ferry. AMS is dedicated to the safety of our employees and our community. Further, there are no known complaints from AMS employees concerning work conditions.” A state inspector noted an Austin Master Service Employee shoveling up waste at truck loadout for transport at the Martins Ferry oilfield waste facility during a September 2018 visit. Credit: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, September 23, 2018 inspection report DeSmog requested to speak with a current Austin Master employee but this request was rejected by Martin. He has not replied to questions by DeSmog concerning what specific “competitors” and “larger companies in the industry” he was referring to. Local, state, and federal agencies have had little to say about the elevated levels of radioactivity found outside the Martins Ferry waste facility and activists worry their concerns are not being acted upon. Questions sent to the City of Martins Ferry regarding the Austin Master facility and the community’s drinking water supply returned the following reply: “I am receipt [sic] of your email below and have forwarded a copy of this request to our legal counsel.” But despite repeated requests, no additional comments have been provided.  DeSmog forwarded documents containing the results of Concerned Ohio River Residents’ sampling efforts to the EPA, ODNR, and Ohio Department of Health. “The Division has received the correspondence from the Concerned Ohio River Residents (CORR) and is reviewing it,” said O’Grady, the ODNR spokesperson. “It would be inappropriate for the Division to comment until this review is complete.” “We are unable to comment on an outside group’s data because we cannot do quality assurance on the results,” stated EPA strategic communications advisor Taylor Gillespie.  The Ohio Department of Health has not yet replied. Martins Ferry City Schools, the City of Martins Ferry, and Austin Master Services have not replied to this same request. “We have a real problem at this site and citizens had to do the environmental testing with our own time and money,” says Beverly Reed, of Concerned Ohio River Residents, and a member of both of the Austin Master sampling efforts. “We want the state agencies to take notice and listen to our list of demands and we also insist that our elected officials get involved. They should be putting citizens ahead of all else.” The post ‘This Needs to Be Fixed’: Nuclear Expert Calls Radioactivity Levels Found Outside Ohio Oilfield Waste Facility ‘Excessive’ appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 4/21/22 10:35am
The first page of Menlo Park, California’s 2030 Climate Action Plan shows a map predicting which parts of the city will be underwater by the end of the century, flooded by the rising waters of San Francisco Bay. The famed headquarters of Facebook’s parent company Meta appears as an island, the roads leading to 1 Hacker Way erased by a sea of blue. Sea level rise is just one imminent threat for Silicon Valley. Concerns about the upcoming wildfire season are looming over California, with over 95 percent of the state experiencing severe or extreme drought. Climate scientists warn future years may bring wildfire smoke at levels the San Francisco Chronicle calls “practically unbearable.” As the impacts of the climate crisis have drawn nearer for all of us, Meta has begun speaking about climate change in clear, direct terms in its public statements. “Climate change is the greatest threat we all face — and the need to act grows more urgent every day,” Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of global affairs and communications, said in November 2021. “The science is clear and unambiguous.” But when it comes to the fight to curb climate change disinformation online, tech giants are failing to communicate clearly about the spread of climate disinformation on their platforms and what they intend to do about it, a new report published today by Friends of the Earth, Avaaz and Greenpeace finds. “None of the social media companies got more than half of the points available, failing miserably to protect users from harmful climate disinformation,” said Julia Masters, campaign manager of the Climate Disinformation Coalition at Friends of the Earth. The scorecard ranks tech giants on their transparency on climate disinformation and their plans to respond.  Meta — along with TikTok and Twitter — received worse grades than both YouTube and Pinterest. Earlier this month, Pinterest adopted new policies on climate disinformation, pledging that it won’t allow users or advertisers to spread climate denial and distortions on its site. “Pinterest has proved it’s possible to address climate disinformation in community guidelines,” Masters added, “and it’s past time for other companies to follow suit.” The new scorecard comes shortly after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recent report found that the window of opportunity for climate action is “brief and rapidly closing.” Meanwhile, the IPCC added, “[v]ested interests have generated rhetoric and misinformation that undermines climate science and disregards risk and urgency.” “This analysis expands on what the IPCC identified in its latest report – the pernicious spread of climate disinformation across social media is a key reason for the delay in the transition to the clean energy economy that we need for a livable future,” said Charlie Cray, senior strategist at Greenpeace USA. “Social media companies’ passive and inscrutable response to climate disinformation has allowed them to boost their numbers while driving us towards total planetary collapse. This must end now,” Cray said. “We need more transparency and aggressive action before any of the platforms can credibly claim to foster the norms of digital discourse that are essential to our collective survival.” The group’s scorecard, titled “In the Dark,” uses a 27-point metric to grade social media companies on their climate disinformation policies, assigning Pinterest and YouTube grades of 14, while Facebook, TikTok and Twitter received grades of 9, 7 and 5 points, respectively. “There is a gross lack of transparency, as these companies conceal much of the data about the prevalence of digital climate dis/misinformation and any internal measures taken to address its spread,” the scorecard says. The scorecard defines disinformation as “any verifiably false or misleading content that is spread with the intention to deceive or secure economic or political gain, and which has the potential to cause public harm.” It’s based on a definition of climate mis/disinformation that was circulated in an open letter to tech giants in the leadup to the COP26 negotiations by Friends of the Earth, Avaaz and others. The scorecard distinguishes between what it calls “freedom of speech and freedom of reach,” meaning that the right to speech does not encompass the right to access powerful social media algorithms. “Past research has shown that much of the climate dis/misinformation on social media is spread by a small number of actors, often with vested economic and political interests, and amplified by social media recommendation algorithms designed to maximize human attention and profit,” the scorecard says. The scorecard also warns tech giants that regulators are watching — and not just in the U.S. “In the European Union, there is significant movement towards regulating Big Tech, including requiring transparency on their content policies and practices,” it says. Twitter received the worst grades on transparency, with the report finding a “lack of clarity on dis/misinformation review policies and vague enforcement reporting information.” Meta’s leadership has previously disclaimed responsibility for the disconnect between climate disinformation and reality, even while acknowledging the problems climate disinformation creates. “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Fox News in 2020. Zuckerberg later admitted in testimony before the US Congress that climate misinformation is “a big issue.” “As fossil fuel industry-backed climate disinformation pollutes users’ social media feeds and fans the flames of the climate crisis, tech companies are leaving the public in the dark,” said Rebecca Lenn, senior advisor for Avaaz. “It’s time for Big Tech to answer the years-long call from researchers, advocates, and lawmakers for full transparency on the scale of climate disinformation online and their policies to combat it.” The post Social Media Giants Get a Failing Grade on Climate Disinformation appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 4/21/22 10:15am
Boris Johnson has met with the head of an Indian multinational conglomerate building Australia’s largest coal mine, despite having called on the world to phase out the fuel as part of the UK’s COP26 presidency.   The UK prime minister met with billionaire Gautam Adani this week on a trip to India to strengthen relations between the two countries and promote “jobs, growth and opportunity”.  Adani tweeted a photo of the meeting with Johnson today, writing: “Honoured to host @BorisJohnson, the first UK PM to visit Gujarat, at Adani HQ. Delighted to support climate & sustainability agenda with focus on renewables, green H2 & new energy. Will also work with UK companies to co-create defence & aerospace technologies.” Adani Group has pledged to be carbon neutral and embrace renewable energy, but at the same time is expanding its coal production, with plans to double its coal-fired power capacity to 24GW, according to analysis last year by campaign group Market Forces. Honoured to host @BorisJohnson, the first UK PM to visit Gujarat, at Adani HQ. Delighted to support climate & sustainability agenda with focus on renewables, green H2 & new energy. Will also work with UK companies to co-create defence & aerospace technologies. #AtmanirbharBharat pic.twitter.com/IzoRpIV6ns— Gautam Adani (@gautam_adani) April 21, 2022 Campaigners said Adani is trying to brand himself as a “climate leader” despite his “appalling” record of coal extraction, and accused Johnson of going along with the “charade”. Adani also met Johnson at the UK government’s “global investment summit” in October ahead of the UN COP26 climate summit hosted in Glasgow, Scotland.  Consigning Coal to History The UK has used its presidency of COP26 to call for a global phase-out of coal-fired power.  During the negotiations, Johnson hailed “significant steps made to consign coal to the history books” and praised the resulting Glasgow Agreement for being the “first ever international agreement to phase down coal and a roadmap to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees”.  The UK is also a leading member of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a coalition of governments and businesses supporting a transition away from the fuel.  The Adani Group has faced opposition in India for its coal extraction and pollution, and protests in Australia over its Carmichael coal mine.  Jess Worth, co-director at Culture Unstained, which campaigns against fossil fuel sponsorship of the arts, told DeSmog: “Gautam Adanis record on coal extraction is appalling.  “His company is planning on quadrupling its coal output in India by 2024, despite massive resistance from Indigenous Adivasi communities whose lands and livelihoods are being destroyed. Meanwhile in Australia Adani is building the country’s biggest coal mine.  “Despite this, Gautam Adani is trying to brand himself as a climate leader – and it seems Boris Johnson is happy to go along with this charade.” Culture Unstained has criticised Adani Group’s solar and wind business for funding a new gallery at the Science Museum in central London on “energy revolution”.  The gallery will reportedly “explore the latest climate science and the energy revolution needed to cut global dependence on fossil fuels and achieve the Paris targets to limit global warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”. “Our leaders, in both politics and the museums sector, must stop cosying up to this coal baron and instead call him out on his highly destructive business activities,” Worth said. The UK’s COP26 team and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy declined to comment. Adani Group did not respond. Number 10 did not provide a comment at time of publication.  The post Boris Johnson Meets Coal Baron on India Tour Despite Calling For End to Dirtiest Fossil Fuel appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 4/21/22 2:23am
Greenhouse gas emissions produced by JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, have surged more than 50 percent in the past five years as the company has acquired new poultry and livestock units – meaning it now has a larger climate footprint than Italy, according to a new study. The findings, published ahead of the Brazilian company’s annual general meeting on Friday, prompted renewed calls from climate campaigners for asset managers to divest from JBS – despite its pledge to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2040. “It’s mind-blowing that JBS can continue to make climate claims to investors, even as the company massively increases its emissions,” said Shefali Sharma, Europe director for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), a nonprofit advocacy organisation, which calculated the estimates. IATP found that JBS’s emissions rose from 280 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2016 to 421.6 MtCO2e in 2021 – an increase of 51% over five years. To put those figures in context, Italy – a country of 59 million people – produced 418.3 MtCO2e in 2019.  This increase came largely as a result of JBS acquiring competitors around the world. The number of cattle in JBS’s supply chain has increased by 54 percent since 2016, while the number of pigs increased by 67 percent, and chickens by 40 percent, according to an IATP tally of company data. In 2021 alone, JBS processed 26.8 million cattle, 46.7 million pigs and 4.9 billion chickens.  Greenhouse gases are emitted throughout the process of producing livestock and poultry. Deforestation to create pastures and feed for livestock releases CO2; methane is emitted from animals and their manure; and fossil fuels are used to transport animals and power the globalized meat supply chain. JBS did not immediately respond to a request from DeSmog to provide its own emissions estimates or comment on the study. The company told the Financial Times it denied the accuracy of the estimates, saying the study used “flawed methodology and grossly extrapolated data to make misleading claims.”  IATP said that its estimates of the companys emissions may be conservative since it has struggled to obtain precise numbers from JBS about its overall emissions, the number of animals in its supply chain and the number of animals it slaughters each day. The advocacy group also said it used conservative estimates to factor in the climate impact of deforestation associated with the company.   IATP calculated the figures with input from food systems campaign group Feedback and DeSmog. The findings were featured in a wider report released on Thursday on JBS’s environmental impact, financiers and customers by the Mighty Earth advocacy group, entitled The Boys from Brazil. Greenwashing Long under fire from campaign groups over evidence linking the company to deforestation in the Amazon, JBS became the first major player in the meat industry to pledge to slash its carbon emissions to net zero in March last year. Gilberto Tomazoni, JBS chief executive, said at the time that the company had an opportunity to leverage its scale and influence to lead a “sustainable transformation” of agricultural markets.  “Agriculture can and must be part of the global climate solution,” Tomazoni said. “We believe through innovation, investment and collaboration, net zero is within our collective grasp.” Climate campaigners said the surge in emissions caused by the company’s expansion in recent years suggested that the net zero target was little more than “greenwashing,” and urged investors to divest from the company. The top shareholders included the Brazilian development bank BNDES, BlackRock and Fidelity Investments, according to the Mighty Earth report.  “Its high time that banks and investors, many of whom have adopted their own net-zero targets and committed to end deforestation, ceased to bankroll climate chaos and the destruction of nature, by pulling the plug on their financial backing to toxic JBS and its subsidiaries,” said Carina Millstone, executive director of Feedback. In 2020, Danish investor Nordea Asset Management sold all of its shares in JBS due to concerns about the company’s environmental impact and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Reuters reported.  Mighty Earth’s report drew on previous research to suggest that JBS has been responsible for the loss of at least 200,000 hectares of forest in its direct supply chain, and 1.5 million hectares in its indirect supply chain, since 2008. Concerns over deforestation have prompted calls for supermarket chains to sever ties with JBS and other Brazilian meat suppliers. “JBS is one of the world’s worst climate offenders and that’s why we’re urging its key customers like giant supermarkets Carrefour, Costco and Tesco to drop JBS urgently,” said Alex Wijeratna, campaign director at Mighty Earth. “No company that buys meat from JBS can claim to be serious about climate change.” Paul Morozzo, forests campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said the latest estimates for the company’s greenhouse gas emissions provided further justification for boycotting JBS. “Here’s yet more evidence of the fact that JBS – a major meat supplier to many UK supermarkets – shows absolutely no intention of ending its climate wrecking activities,” Morozzo said. “Tesco recently claimed that remaining a customer of JBS was the best way to influence it. But the only way to show JBS that destroying the planet for meat production wont be tolerated is to stop doing business with it immediately.”  Tesco says it does not buy meat directly from JBS – but does buy meat from Moy Park and Tulip, two long-standing suppliers which JBS recently acquired. Tesco said these companies are on track to meet its commitments under its plans to eliminate deforestation in the soy supply chain, and that it was also pressing JBS on a range of issues. JBS says that it is “committed to combating, discouraging and eliminating deforestation in the Amazon” and that it prohibits any cattle from deforested land from entering its supply chain. Behind the Numbers To calculate the emissions figures, IATP used the UN-approved GLEAM methodology to update the findings from its 2018 Emissions Impossible report on the climate impact of the meat and dairy industry. Using JBS company reports and publicly available data, IATP determined how many cattle, pigs and chickens the company processed in 2021. IATP then used the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s most recent GLEAM data to estimate greenhouse gas emissions per kilo of beef, pork, and poultry – accounting for regional differences in the climate impact of production. These variables were used to produce a total emissions estimate.  Earlier this month, energy thinktank Ember produced a list of the top ten emitting coal power plants in Europe in 2021. Top emitter Bełchatów in Poland released 33.2 million metric tonnes (Mt) of CO2 in 2021 – one thirteenth of the estimate for JBS’s 2021 emissions. JBS’s methane emissions have also caused concern amid a growing recognition that the gas exerts a much stronger short-term warming effect than carbon dioxide. The EU and US announced a global pledge to cut methane emissions 30 percent by 2030, compared to 2020 levels, at the UN climate talks at COP26 in Glasgow late last year.  According to the UN’s 2021 global methane report, agriculture makes up 40 percent of human-made global methane emissions, with the vast majority stemming from livestock emissions from manure and fermentation in the digestive tracts of animals. Global atmospheric emissions of methane hit a record high in 2021, the second year in a row the record was broken, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  Net Zero Target Renewed scrutiny of JBS’s contribution to climate change comes against a backdrop of growing concerns over greenwashing. In March, the UN announced the creation of a new greenwashing watchdog group, which plans to publish recommendations on how to judge companies’ net zero targets; suggest how to translate them into national and international regulations; and discourage over-reliance on carbon offsets. The group will not be naming and shaming individual companies, according to UN special advisor on climate Selwin Hart. As evidence of its commitment to reduce emissions, JBS points to its net zero by 2040 target, saying the goal is the “first of its kind” in the industrial agriculture industry.  To prove the company is reducing its environmental impact, JBS also cites the development of blockchain technology to reduce deforestation by improving the traceability of cattle in its Brazilian supply chain, and its adoption of methane-reducing feed additives.  However, campaigners say a lack of disclosure by the company is harming the credibility of its pledges.  JBS publicly reports what are known as “Scope 1” and “Scope 2” emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a non-profit environmental disclosure organisation. Scope 1 covers direct emissions from company-owned or -controlled sources – such as vehicles or factories. Scope 2 generally refers to emissions produced to generate the electricity used by the company.  JBS does not publish Scope 3 – which includes emissions generated across a company’s entire supply chain. Campaigners say that this is a glaring omission since JBS has acknowledged that approximately 90 percent of its emissions fall into this category.  Another metric that JBS and food industry peers use to report their emissions – known as “emissions intensity” – calculates the greenhouse gas emissions associated with producing a kilogram of meat.  JBS and other companies say that reducing emissions intensity – for example by adding methane-minimising additives to livestock feed – will allow them to continue producing meat at scale while reducing absolute emissions.  Nevertheless, the company’s emissions intensity increased by 30 percent from 2019-2020, according to figures JBS provided to the CDP. This was despite the fact that the company had in 2020 set a target to cut its Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 30 percent within 10 years.  JBS has also faced questions over its compliance with the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), which helps companies to set independently-verifiable goals to reduce emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.  Institutional Shareholder Services ESG, a company that provides investors with climate-related data and analytics, has determined that JBS’s target to reduce its Scope 1 and 2 emissions is not aligned with SBTi methodology. That’s because SBTi requires any company in which more than 40 percent of its total emissions fall under Scope 3 to include a Scope 3 target. Institutional Shareholder Services also notes that JBS has not committed to verify that its emissions intensity goals align with the most ambitious Paris target to limit global warming to 1.5C. JBS has said it is working with SBTi to strengthen its targets. Campaigners have also raised concerns about JBS’s embrace of carbon offsets, an approach that allows big emitters to purchase “carbon credits” generated by carbon-absorbing projects such as tree-planting or restoring wetlands. JBS is both buying and selling offsets in its attempt to reach net zero. Repórter Brasil revealed last year that JBS is selling carbon offsets from its biodiesel plants, which JBS calls “green energy.” Critics dispute whether these offsets are valid since the biofuel is made from animal fat from JBS slaughterhouses that could be linked to deforestation. RenovaBio, Brazil’s national biofuels policy, has a zero-deforestation requirement for issuing offsets for plant-based biofuels, but no equivalent policy covering the supply chain for animal fats. The post Brazilian Meat Giant JBS a Bigger Emitter Than Italy, Study Estimates appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 4/19/22 12:30pm
Roughly 17 million people in the U.S. live within a mile of an oil or gas well — putting them at higher risk of health problems like heart disease, breathing issues, anxiety and depression, and complications during pregnancy, a growing body of research shows. But all is not equal when it comes to who exactly lives near oil wells — and intentional racial discrimination in federal mortgage policies, reflected in a practice known as “redlining,” may have played a role, according to a new study published in the Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology. There are nearly twice as many oil and gas wells in neighborhoods that were redlined in the 1930s, the study found. That pattern was visible in 33 cities across 13 states where oil and gas wells were drilled, and drilling in those neighborhoods intensified after the federal government issued redlining maps. The relationship was visible not only in heavily drilled southern states like Texas and Louisiana, but also in cities like Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City, Detroit, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New York City, and Los Angeles. “Our study adds to the evidence that structural racism in federal policy is associated with the disproportionate siting of oil and gas wells in marginalized neighborhoods,” researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and Columbia University in New York wrote in the paper. The research has implications not only for public health, but also for upcoming battles over the cleanup — known as plugging and abandonment — of the nation’s aging oil and gas wells, including questions of which wells should be plugged first and how to ensure that wells remain plugged over time. The federal government intends to spend $4.7 billion over the next nine years to plug inactive oil and gas wells whose owners can’t be found, under the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, dispensed in grants to state oil and gas regulators. Oil drillers look to drill wherever oil is found — but when you zoom in a bit and look acre-by-acre, companies and regulators tend to have a fair amount of discretion over where exactly drilling is done. The new study used data from Enverus DrillingInfo, an industry data provider, showing the locations of oil and gas wells that were drilled as far back as 1898, plus federal census data, and maps drawn by the Home-Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), a New Deal-era program that was initially intended to prevent foreclosures during the Great Depression. Towards the end of the 1930s, HOLC was given the job of mapping out the lending risks associated with neighborhoods across the U.S. It wound up producing notorious “redlining” maps that explicitly discriminated against people of color based on their race — a practice PBS dubbed “the Jim Crow laws of the North.” “Historic redlining and the siting of oil and gas wells in the United States.” Credit: Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology, Gonzalez et al. 2022 “Starting in the late 1930s, the Home Owners’ Loan Corp. (HOLC) marked areas across the United States as unworthy of loans because of an ‘infiltration of foreign-born, Negro, or lower grade population’ and bordered them in red,” The Washington Post explains. “This made it harder for home buyers of color to get mortgages; the corporation awarded A grades for solidly White areas and D’s for largely non-White areas that lenders were advised to shun.” We know that the HOLC appraisal process and redlining was an explicitly racist practice,” says David J.X. Gonzalez, the lead author of the new study and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. He explains that the HOLC maps tend to mirror other redlining maps that were used by mortgage lenders and reinforced racial segregation. “These HOLC redlining maps are just one set of tools or maps that were produced at the time. Theyre not a perfect tool, but theyre the best data we have from that era right now.” What the researchers found was that neighborhoods that would later be redlined were more likely to have oil and gas wells in the 1920s and 30s. Los Angeles had the most wells in redlined neighborhoods overall, with Cleveland, Ohio, ranking second and Oklahoma City ranking third. My Chicano grandpa moved to Los Angeles with his parents in 1934. Five years later, his neighborhood was redlined by the federal government. In a new paper out today, we found that redlined neighborhoods like my grandpas have twice the number oil wells https://t.co/23BUPpxnUD— David J.X. González (@davidJXgonzalez) April 13, 2022 In cities like Los Angeles in particular, theres already substantial oil production in the 1920s and 30s, before redlining. So we looked at, first of all, wells drilled at any time, where are they in these urban areas? Gonzalez said. The worse they graded a neighborhood, the more oil wells. So we saw clear trends there.  Gonzalez noted that the pattern was particularly pronounced in parts of Oklahoma, for example, adding that some of this drilling would have taken place around the time of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. “We know that redlining wasn’t the start of racial segregation, but it upheld it and helped institutionalize these disparities that we see in the present day,” he says. But the impacts didn’t end there. To see if redlining played a role in concentrating oil and gas wells in communities of color, they drew on census data, available in 17 of the cities studied, to try to match neighborhoods with similar characteristics that nonetheless received different grades from HOLC, which used letter grades from A through D in its maps, with D neighborhoods being redlined. “We did the best job we could to match neighborhoods that looked similar but had different grades, says Gonzalez. They looked similar, they could have received a C-grade or a D-grade. They got a D-grade. Did that lead to more wells being drilled in those neighborhoods?” “Yes,” he says. “Thats what we saw.” Kiari Martin sits on the wall bordering a playground where she hangs out with her friends. Toxic waste incineration units are located just to the right at the Murphy Oil site in Los Angeles. Credit: Sarah Craig/Faces of Fracking, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 There was successively more drilling in neighborhoods that looked the same or similar but that received a worse grade, he says. “B neighborhoods had more than A neighborhoods, C had more than B, and D had more than C.” “So it didn’t just happen by accident,” Gonzalez adds. The findings mean that today, people living in formerly redlined neighborhoods are more likely to have been exposed to the hazards associated with drilling and production — and they’re also exposed to aging oil wells that are too old to produce fossil fuels and need to be plugged and abandoned, a sometimes tricky and expensive job. In 2020, DeSmog reported on a rush to build affordable housing on top of old oil wells with a history of leaking toxic fumes in the predominately working-class, Latinx neighborhood of Vista Hermosa in Los Angeles. “I’m very concerned about plugged wells in racially marginalized communities,” says Gonzalez. “A lot of the wells in historically redlined neighborhoods are abandoned and have been for a long time. Theres increasing evidence of methane emissions from these abandoned wells and thats correlated with, for example, benzene, and benzene is a carcinogen. And we know communities that live near wells are often complaining about higher rates of cancer.” And that applies not only to wells that were never plugged, but also to those that aren’t properly plugged, which could allow air and water pollutants to seep out invisibly, Gonzalez notes. “It is, I think, gravely concerning how plugged wells may be adversely affecting health.” “Millions of people live near plugged wells,” he adds, “and I suspect that many people don’t know they live near them.” Racially marginalized communities should be prioritized,” Gonzalez says, “because of the heavy burden that these communities have borne for decades. The post Redlined Neighborhoods in Cities Across the US Saw More Oil Drilling, Study Finds appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 4/19/22 11:37am
In late March, the Alberta government ran a series of ads on Facebook promoting an oil sands pipeline expansion that could have a climate footprint surpassing that of the entire country of Panama. “Once completed, the Trans Mountain Expansion will allow more responsibly-produced Canadian oil to reach key markets in Asia and beyond,” claimed one ad from the Canadian Energy Centre, which according to Facebook analytics reached an estimated audience size of over one million people. “And with global demand for oil soaring, the pipeline project is more important than ever.” But certain facts were left conveniently unstated. The “responsibly-produced” oil that will be pumped through Trans Mountain could release 15 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year. That figure is larger than the individual annual climate footprints reported by 125 countries. The organization that paid for the ad, and dozens of similar Facebook ads so far in 2022, was set up to spread pro-oil propaganda on behalf of the Alberta government. The three-member board of the Canadian Energy Centre, also known as the “Energy War Room,” is comprised of provincial cabinet ministers. To top it all off, funding for the Canadian Energy Centre comes directly from the province’s tax on industrial polluters. A policy touted as lowering greenhouse emissions from Alberta’s oil and gas sector is instead paying for Facebook advertisements designed to expand that sector. And there will be many more oil and gas ads to come in people’s Facebook feeds. The Alberta government budgeted an estimated $159 million for the Canadian Energy Centre, along with “deficit and debt reduction,” in its 2022 Fiscal Plan. The province earlier set aside a budget of $80 million for the Canadian Energy Centre in its 2019 Budget, paid for by climate taxes on the province’s biggest polluters. “It’s a ridiculously ineffective program,” Drew Yewchuk, a lawyer with the University of Calgary’s Public Interest Law Clinic, told DeSmog. The program that funds the Alberta government’s oil propaganda is known as the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) regulation. It requires industrial polluters that emit 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases or higher to pay a tax on their emissions. The regulation applies to approximately 500 polluting facilities in Alberta, accounting for 60 percent of the province’s greenhouse gas output. Alberta’s 2022 Fiscal Plan describes it as “a centrepiece of Alberta’s approach to climate change and emissions management.” United Conservative Party premier Jason Kenney touts this program as evidence the province is taking climate change seriously, saying last year in a tweet that “Alberta is already a leader in reducing emissions.” Even critics have acknowledged this as progress. “Canada does have some claim to credibility on the climate action front,” reads a National Geographic story referring to the oil sands as the “most destructive oil operation” in the world. “As early as 2007, Alberta’s provincial government instituted a carbon tax on large industrial emitters, which has raised U.S. $350 million (C $463 million) for energy research.” But while revenue from the program has supported provincial efforts to develop carbon capture and storage, clean energy and methane reduction technologies, that’s done little to slow the growth of Alberta’s emissions, which have increased 61 percent since 1990. This is “primarily due to the increase in the oil and gas industry,” the federal government notes. Far from fixing this situation, the carbon tax revenues that fund the Canadian Energy Centre are making the problem worse. “The money taken from carbon intensive industry for the supposed purpose of reducing emissions and controlling change,” Yewchuk argues, is instead being spent on propaganda “favouring more use of Albertan oil and gas, and thereby the release of more carbon emissions.” That’s not entirely surprising, given that one of the Canadian Energy Centre’s directors is Alberta Minister of Energy Sonya Savage, who previously worked as senior director of policy and regulatory affairs for the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. Before that, she spent nine years at the Calgary-based pipeline company Enbridge. The Canadian Energy Centre also has financial links to other pro-oil groups with an active presence on Facebook. Its registered office address corresponds to the Calgary law firm Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP, the same law firm listed for Canada Action, Debunk Inc. and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. The Canadian Energy Centre insists it takes the challenge of fixing the climate emergency seriously. “We believe that the climate is changing, that human activity is contributing, and that we all need to do better,” it said upon its launch in 2019. But it takes any opportunity it can to downplay the crisis. “Recent events are a harsh reminder that whatever challenges climate change is creating, secure and affordable supplies of fuel and food remain essential and cannot be taken for granted,” it argued in another Facebook ad from March. The Energy Centre has spent more than $300,000 so far on such ads—derived from tax revenue that’s supposed to go towards stabilizing global temperatures. Perhaps it’s time to call Alberta’s carbon tax on industrial polluters what it truly is, argues Jeff Gailus in Alberta Views: a “world-class carbon reduction sham.” The post Alberta Is Spending its Carbon Tax on Pro-Oil Ad Campaigns appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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[l] at 4/14/22 4:02pm
DeSmog is excited to welcome Matthew Green as our Global Investigations Editor. Matthew joins DeSmog from Reuters, where he has covered climate and environmental stories for the past four years — with a particular focus on the intersection between the climate crisis, finance, and the energy transition. In 2018, he reported from West Africa, Borneo, and Norway for Reuters’ Ocean Shock project on the impact of climate change on marine communities, sharing a prize for explanatory journalism from the Society of Environmental Journalists. Prior to that, Green spent 14 years as an international correspondent for Reuters and the Financial Times, reporting from countries across Africa, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and covering the 2003 invasion of Iraq. As Global Investigations Editor, Matthew will lead DeSmog’s efforts to cover the global climate crisis, energy politics, and the struggles for environmental justice through a more international lens. This is a new position at DeSmog, designed to reflect our growing ambition to expand our investigative capacity beyond the geographies we’re known to report on, as well as to connect dots in our reporting on issues and stakeholders that are relevant on multiple continents. As the fossil fuel industry continues to ignore the science and ramp up oil and gas production in areas of the world with little investigative journalism capacity, DeSmog aspires to fill the void, both through our expertise in climate denial and industry misinformation, and by forming relationships with local journalists and sources. Matthew will help us achieve this bold vision. Our team of investigative journalists and researchers is thrilled to have Matthew join us as we continue DeSmog’s 16-year mission of Clearing the PR Pollution.  Please follow Matthew on Twitter, and email him any tips or advice as he embarks on this journey with us. The post Introducing Matthew Green, DeSmog’s Global Investigations Editor appeared first on DeSmog.

[Category: Energy]

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