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Wed, 2012-05-30 08:35Brendan DeMelle
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What Chesapeake Energy's Financial Scandals Mean For The Rest of Us

Given radioactive wastewater, earthquakes, and flammable tap water, one might think that drilling and fracking could not possibly have any more dirty secrets. But here’s the biggest secret of all: it’s expensive.

With natural gas at historic low prices – the Wall Street Journal ran a column recently suggesting that the price of gas might even sink to negative numbers, so that producers would need to pay buyers to take it off their hands – it may seem odd to think that fracking is costly. But it’s true. Not just in terms of its environmental footprint, but also in terms of its financial costs.

And everyone should care about how expensive gas is, especially those concerned about energy security and the environment, because the answer will determine the fate of renewables, the way we use land and water, and whether our nation’s energy policies are fundamentally sound.

To understand what’s going on, you need to look at Chesapeake Energy, the second largest producer of natural gas in the US, the company described by its founder and CEO Aubrey McClendon as the “biggest frackers in the world.”

For 19 of the past 21 years, the company has operated at what investors call “cash flow negative” – last year by $8.547 billion dollars – meaning that Chesapeake has consistently spent a whole lot more than it earned. For decades.

To fund all that fracking, the company has been flipping land, engaging in so many financial transactions that it’s been said to resemble a hedge fund more than a gas driller.

McClendon's company has become the environmental Enron, with Chesapeake's accountants creating some of the most labyrinthine and impenetrable books since Enron, according to some investors.

Wed, 2012-05-23 13:09Brendan DeMelle
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Joe Bast Announces the Death of Denial-a-Palooza at Final Heartland ICCC Conference

During his closing remarks at the Heartland Institute's Seventh “International Conference on Climate Change,” Heartland President Joseph Bast revealed that the group has no plans to hold another conference and is struggling to pay its staff following the defections of corporate sponsors in the wake of the disastrous Unabomber billboard campaign and Deniergate document dump.

“I'm not a good fundraiser,” Bast admitted to the crowd today in Chicago as the gathering wound down.

Bast appealed directly to the crowd for donations, saying that “if you've got a rich uncle” [ask him to donate to Heartland]. 

“At this point we have no plans to do another ICCC,” Bast said, referring to the somewhat-annual gatherings which DeSmogBlog dubbed Denial-a-Palooza years ago. 

Watch Bast's closing remarks here (fast forward to 01:31:20). 

See below the fold for excerpted quotes from Bast's final remarks.

Bast announces at 1:38:05:

“I hope to see you at a future conference, but at this point we have no plans to do another ICCC.”
Tue, 2012-05-22 01:00Brendan DeMelle
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Heartland Denial-a-Palooza Sponsors Have Received $67 Million From ExxonMobil, Koch and Scaife Foundations

The Heartland Institute's Seventh “International Conference on Climate Change” - the somewhat-annual gathering of climate deniers that we call Denial-a-Palooza - is underway in Chicago. Heartland's contrarian gathering this year is clouded by the group's incredibly offensive billboard campaign that flamed out within hours but is causing lasting damage to the group's fading financial support from corporations, defections by staff and board directors and other headaches

Below is DeSmog's analysis of the “co-sponsors” of this year's ICCC7 conference showing that these organizations have received more than $67 million over the past three decades from ExxonMobil, the Koch Brothers and the right-wing Scaife family foundations. This is just a subset of the funding flowing to these groups from just three sources, and is certainly not all earmarked to cast doubt about climate change science and policy. But it provides a window into Heartland's current and historical support from fellow travelers who endorse the group's anti-science agenda. 


Here's the breakdown of funding to Heartland Institute *conference co-sponsors* from these sources:

ExxonMobil (1998-2010):              $7,312,500
Koch Foundations (1986-2010):     $14,391,975
Scaife Foundations (1985-2010):   $45,337,640

Grand Total:                               $67,042,115 


Here's the complete list along with the funding totals for each of the organizations.

Thu, 2012-05-17 13:56Brendan DeMelle
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Peter Sinclair's New Video Skewers Heartland's Offensive "Murderers, Tyrants and Madmen" Billboard Campaign

Peter Sinclair, the creator of the “Climate Crock of the Week” series, has a new video posted at the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media documenting just how out of touch with reality the Heartland Institute's recent offensive Unabomber billboard campaign is. Featuring the calm and insightful comments of Margaret Thatcher, Sinclair shows the stupidity of Heartland's claim that all of us who acknowledge climate change science are “murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

Watch Sinclair's piece, part of Yale Forum's “This Is Not Cool” series:

  

Mon, 2012-05-14 11:47Brendan DeMelle
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Oil and Gas Industry Moves to Silence Critics

Shutterstock image by iodrakon

At an industry public relations conference last year, Michael Kehs of Chesapeake Energy described a Wall Street Journal op-ed to gathered oil and gas officials, saying it pointed out the industry's “credibility problem.”

“And I’m sure some of it relates to defensiveness,” Kehs added. (MP3 Audio

Small wonder.

For years, the oil and gas industry has adopted a war-like mentality towards its critics. When confronted with problems caused by drilling and fracking, instead of acknowledging them and working to prevent more, their approach has too often been to cover up the issues while attacking any critics who make problems known publicly.

This pattern has sharply accelerated in recent months.

Earlier this month, Al Armendariz, the EPA's regional administrator for the oil-and-gas rich states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico, sent his letter of resignation to Lisa Jackson, head of the EPA. Mr. Armendariz had come under heavy fire over comments he made two years ago at a local government meeting in Texas. 

In explaining his law enforcement philosophy, he analogized his agency's strategy to the early Romans, who he said would “crucify” law-breakers to make examples of them. After a video of these remarks was circulated last week by Sen. James Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, who counts the oil and gas industry as one of his largest donors, a firestorm of controversy broke out.

As Media Matters pointed out, when Mr. Armendariz said he intended to make an example of offenders, he was referring only to companies that actually broke the law – but this was not enough to save his career.

Thu, 2012-05-10 15:57Brendan DeMelle
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Tar Sands Oil Companies 71 Percent Foreign-Owned - Cue Ezra Levant's Outrage

ForestEthics Advocacy released a game-changing research brief today documenting the massive foreign control of Alberta's tar sands oil industry. Publicly traded oil companies with active tar sands operations have a very high level of foreign ownership – 71 per cent.

Some supposedly “Canadian” oil companies including Suncor, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Imperial Oil and Husky are predominantly owned by foreign interests. More than half of Canada’s oil and gas revenue goes to companies under foreign control.

This revelation stands in stark contrast to the talking points of the Harper administration and its media echo chamber, which insist that there is too much foreign influence over Canada's resource decisions from environmental groups. In fact, the evidence shows overwhelmingly that foreign interests are influencing tar sands and other resource decisions - chiefly Chinese and other foreign oil companies. 

Cue Ezra Levant's outrage at this foreign influence in Canadian interests! Where's Vivian Krause when you need her? Surely the Ethical Oil Institute will agree that this level of foreign intervention is a dangerous threat to Canada's future

Recall that when the Ethical Oil Institute launched its allegedly “100% Canadian” OurDecision.ca website, this was the statement by spokesperson Kathryn Marshall:  “We’ll never take foreign money to undermine our country’s national interests.” 

The group admits that it receives funding from companies active in the tar sands. Now that it's been revealed that all these companies are predominently foreign-owned, the group's claims to be 100% Canadian are highly misleading. We await their statement correcting the record.

Anticipating that someone, perhaps from the 'ethical oil' team, will quickly attempt to do damage control by claiming that this is just some ginned up report by ForestEthics, let's be crystal clear that the data underlying the report are all from independent sources including Bloomberg Professional and industry journals. 

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