Wednesday, October 7, 2015 - 17:56 • Graham Readfearn
abbot point, queensland

Where and how should the public expect negotiations between fossil fuel industries and governments be carried out?

What kind of relationships should exist between fossil fuel corporations and the politicians and public servants who are part of the decision-making process that those corporations seek to influence?

Should reasonable details of those negotiations be recorded and take place in government offices, during office hours? Should lobbying by industry and companies be available for public scrutiny?

When a government awards a licence to dig up and sell fossil fuels, those decisions represent the transfer of assets from public to private hands worth billions of dollars.

With that in mind, you might expect the answers to all those questions to reflect the highest levels of accountability and transparency.

But in Queensland, Australia’s biggest exporter of coal, this accountability and transparency appears to be lacking.

The Australia Institute has published a report – Too close for comfort: How the coal and gas industry get their way in Queensland - detailing the complex interactions between the coal and gas industries in Queensland and the state’s previous governments.

The report, researched and written by me and paid for by the institute, explores some of the close relationships between lobbyists, politicians, public servants and fossil fuel industry executives.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015 - 03:57 • Ben Lucas

The European Commission’s (EC) guidelines on fracking are being criticised as weak and vague, and have been found to be widely ignored by EU member states, according to a report published today.

The report, entitled ‘Fracking Business (as usual)’, is written by Friends of the Earth and Food & Water Europe, and states that the “weak wording” of the guidelines document is to blame for its poor implementation so far.

It also shows that there is little evidence that the 28 member states are using the guidelines “as a basis to build more stringent rules for fracking”. Instead, it argues the Commission’s report has had “no positive impact” on the way states regulate the industry and the measures they have taken to protect their citizens or the environment against any potential negative impacts. 

Monday, October 5, 2015 - 23:22 • Kyla Mandel

It’s safe to say climate change is not on the Conservative Party conference agenda this year. If you showed up just 12 minutes late to Monday afternoon’s main event, you would’ve missed energy secretary Amber Rudd entirely. And indeed, it seems quite a few people did.

In contrast, there were enormous queues seen in the morning ahead of the big speech on the economy by chancellor George Osborne. Rudd addressed a room that felt three-quarters full.

As one conference attendee noted while waiting: “Climate is obviously not the biggest draw.” It felt like a show’s opening act as everyone waited for the main agenda: local government.

Monday, October 5, 2015 - 04:58 • Sharon Kelly

At an industry conference in Philadelphia last month, oil and gas executives gathered to hear about a little-known public relations effort with a very precise target: newly hired state and federal environmental inspectors.

At a seminar titled “Staying Ahead of Federal and State Regulations: A Partnership with Academia and Government,” officials from Pennsylvania State University and the University of Texas described how gifts from companies like ExxonMobil allowed their universities, along with the Colorado School of Mines, to offer state regulators free classes on oil industry best practices, travel and accommodations included.

Sunday, October 4, 2015 - 04:58 • Brendan DeMelle

Following up on several recent articles and a video explaining how the risks of Bakken oil “bomb trains” will continue to endanger communities across North America for years to come despite new regulations

Sunday, October 4, 2015 - 04:58 • Sharon Kelly

At a shale industry conference in Philadelphia, former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani offered up advice to drilling companies struggling with an oil price collapse and increasing public awareness of the damage that fracking can do to air, water, the climate and the economy.

And you do face a public relations problem,” Giuiliani told the gathered shale executives. “And the public relations problem that you face is that a lot of people dismiss the whole shale revolution from a standpoint of being afraid of it.”

They're irrationally afraid of it,” he said. “But they're afraid.”

Friday, October 2, 2015 - 10:58 • Mike Gaworecki

The California legislature has sent a bill to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk that aims to extend the benefits of solar energy to communities that often have no access to clean energy technologies.

Assembly Bill 693 would create the Multi-Family Affordable Housing Solar Roofs program, which would be authorized to spend $100 million a year for at least 10 years to install solar panels on 210,000 affordable housing units in the Golden State.

It’s estimated that beneficiaries of the program would save more than $38 million per year on their electricity bills and receive another $19 million a year in solar tax credits and other benefits, a total of $1.8 billion over the life of the program, according to Al Jazeera America.

Friday, October 2, 2015 - 07:15 • Farron Cousins

The numbers are in, and they aren’t looking good for climate change deniers. According to the latest reports, the cost of doing nothing on climate change, even based on moderate warming models, will top $400 trillion in economic losses.

If that figure isn’t startling enough, then consider the additional $43 trillion in damages that we’ll see in the next few decades just from the additional release of CO2 and methane from melting permafrost. That $43 trillion figure assumes all current emissions stay the same, or even fall slightly. If emissions continue to rise, that $43 trillion number is going to climb rapidly.

Friday, October 2, 2015 - 04:58 • Justin Mikulka

CSX is one of the major rail companies that is profiting from the oil-by-rail boom led by North Dakota’s Bakken crude oil. On September 28th, a day that is apparently national “good neighbor day,” CSX broadcast the following message on Twitter.

Thursday, October 1, 2015 - 11:32 • Justin Mikulka

In June of 2014, a representative of oil-by-rail giant Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) attended a meeting with regulators where the American Association of Railroads (AAR) lobbied against any speed limits for oil trains. One of the slides from that presentation – titled “Far Reaching Economic Impacts” (image below) — predicted dire consequences to the American economy if speed limits were put in place.

There was no mention of the safety benefits of such a speed limit in the presentation. 

And now BNSF is back at it, informing regulators that if a congressionally mandated requirement from 2008 that requires all railroads to implement positive train control (PTC) by the end of 2015 isn’t extended, they may just shut down BNSF.