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Fri, 2011-10-07 08:54Steve Horn
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In Throes of Keystone XL Controversy, Obama Admin OKs Alaska Offshore Drilling

With all eyes on the ongoing battle over whether or not the Obama Administration and the State Department will approve the disastrous Keystone XL pipeline, it was easy to lose another huge piece of news in the scuffle pertaining to the Obama White House. 

On October 3, the Obama Interior Department rubber stamped approval for offshore drilling in the Arctic off the northwest coast of Alaska in the Chibucki Sea. Reported the ​Wall Street Journal:

The Obama administration said Monday it was moving forward with oil-drilling leases off the coast of Alaska issued by the Bush administration in 2008, a victory for oil companies in the battle over Arctic Ocean drilling.

(Snip)

The Interior Department's decision is the latest example of the Obama administration siding with energy companies against environmentalists amid a weak economy. Last month, President Barack Obama withdrew proposed ozone-emission rules that businesses said would have killed jobs.

According to an Alaska Dispatch​ story, the area that received drilling approval is 2.8 million acres and companies bid $2.6 billion in an auction for drilling rights, with fossil fuel conglomerates Shell and ConocoPhillips leading the way. The Associated Press​ (AP) wrote, “Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc…spent $2.1 billion for the leases in 2008.” 

Wed, 2011-10-05 17:30Farron Cousins
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New Federal Report Says Gulf of Mexico Cleanup Needed “Urgently”

A preliminary report released Wednesday by the federal Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force says that cleanup is needed for the Gulf of Mexico “urgently,” in order to protect the environmental and economical status of the Gulf.

The task force was established by President Obama after the oil disaster in the Gulf last summer, and is set to deliver a final report on the status of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as a restoration strategy for Gulf Coast states to implement in order to save the region. The goals set forward by the task force include conserving habitats along the Gulf Coast, improving water quality, protecting coastal resources, and enhancing the resilience of coastal communities.

Tue, 2011-10-04 02:26Steve Horn
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Koch Brothers "Secret Sins" Exposed In Bloomberg News Investigation

Bloomberg has released a whopping 21-page investigative and historical essay on the many crimes of the infamous Koch Brothers, their company Koch Industries and its array of subsidiaries. The feature piece in Bloomberg Markets Magazine​'s November edition, the article is titled, “Koch Brothers Flout Law With Secret Iran Sales,” although the title is a bit of a misnomer – while part of the story, the Iran angle is but a small piece of it. 

Indeed, the article leaves any person with faith in the American legal system wondering, “How could these guys not possibly be locked up in prison?” A few stunning article highlights (or lowlights) show that it's not for lack of contemptible behavior, that's for certain:

Sun, 2011-10-02 12:06Farron Cousins
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Oil Lobbyists Targeting “Super Committee”

As the so-called “Super Committee” works to figure out how to trim $1.2 trillion from the U.S. government’s federal deficit, the dirty energy industry has their lobbyists working overtime to make sure that their billions of dollars in annual subsidies aren’t among the items on the chopping block.

The Super Committee only has until Thanksgiving to submit their proposals to President Obama. And not being ones to miss an opportunity, members on the committee have scheduled dozens of personal fundraisers for their campaigns before that deadline hits. And many of the companies who fear that their subsidies could be cut will be in attendance. After all, the lobbyist blitz contains more than 180 former staffers of members of the Super Committee, so access is not an issue, and no introductions will be necessary.

The New York Times lays out the issue as follows:
  

Hundreds of lobbyists, including many former Congressional officials and frequent campaign contributors, are making their cases to the committee members.

Ethanol fuel producers, oil companies, corporate jet owners and many other businesses want the committee to guard their own special tax breaks.

“Everybody’s at risk,” said Howard Marlowe, president of the American League of Lobbyists, “and so everyone’s going to be out there lobbying.”

With the lobbying, of course, come valuable campaign contributions. Despite calls from watchdog groups to suspend their fund-raising, most committee members are continuing to raise money from many of the same industries affected by their work.
 
Thu, 2011-09-29 17:01Ben Jervey
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Cornell Report Busts Myth of Keystone XL Job Creation

Pipe dreams: Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of Keystone XL

Proponents of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project would like you to believe that, if approved, its construction will put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work. This is plainly untrue, according to a new report by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute.

TransCanada, the Canadian company behind the project, has spent the past few years making ambitious claims about the jobs that would be created by construction of the pipeline, which would carry diluted bitumen (or DilBit) crude 1,700 miles across six Great Plains states, 1,904 waterways, and the nation’s largest freshwater aquifer.

These jobs claims have grown more optimistic as the project has found itself the subject of increased scrutiny. This National Wildlife Federation post rounds up TransCanada’s mysteriously rising jobs claims:

In 2008, a report included in TransCanada’s Presidential Permit application for Keystone XL to the State Department said they anticipate “a peak workforce of approximately 3,500 to 4,200 construction personnel” to build the pipeline. In 2010, TransCanada put out a press release that said, “During construction, Keystone XL would create 13,000 jobs and further produce 118,000 spin-off jobs.” In 2011, TransCanada put out a fact sheet that said Keystone XL would “create about 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs.”

In reality, according to the exhaustively researched Cornell report, even the earliest, most modest claims seem unrealistic.

In fact, in Pipe Dreams? Jobs Gained, Jobs Lost by the Construction of Keystone XL, the institute says more jobs could actually be destroyed than created by the pipeline.

Sun, 2011-09-25 12:13Steve Horn
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Pentagon Back to Tried and True PR Tactic - Greenwashing

The Pentagon public relations and propaganda machine is at it again. Working overtime to convince pundits and citizens of the benevolence of its “democracy spreading” missions abroad,  some notables have drank the kool-aid

In a recent article titled, “The military’s historic embrace of smart energy,” Grist's David Roberts wrote, 

The U.S. military's embrace of energy efficiency and renewable energy is going to be one of the great stories of the coming decade. It will be a story about technology, the changing face of warfare, geopolitics in the 21st century, and the struggle to change one of the world's largest bureaucracies…For decades, the lines of warfare on climate change and clean energy have been drearily familiar and amazingly resistant to change. If it follows through on its promises, the Department of Defense – the largest consumer of oil and electricity in America – has the potential to change all that.

Furthermore, in March 2010, the Center for American Progress penned a holistic report titled, “It’s Easy Being Green: The Pentagon Goes Green One Wedge at a Time.”

While a nice and hopeful sentiment, this flies in the face of both history, as well as present day reality of the Pentagon's activities abroad. A review, then, is in order.

Wed, 2011-09-21 14:06Farron Cousins
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Global Financial Leaders Recommend Cutting Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Global financial institutions including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have released a new set of recommendations for G20 countries to meet their goal of providing $100 billion a year in aid for developing nations to combat climate change. In addition to calls for charges on carbon emissions and higher prices for carbon-intensive fuels, the financial experts said the first source of funding should come from redirecting fossil fuel subsidies.

In a move that will surely leave the dirty energy industry in a fit of rage, global economists said that fossil fuel subsidies should be cut and redirected towards helping developing nations fight climate change. The total amount spent on industry subsidies for G20 countries is currently $60 billion a year, more than half of what the countries have pledged to spend per year on climate initiatives and renewable energy projects.

From The Huffington Post:
  

The draft paper says the starting point should be a review of fossil fuel subsidies, amounting to $40 billion to $60 billion a year. But many of those subsidies are handed out in poor countries, where people living on the edge of subsistence need help, for example, to buy cooking gas. Still, subsidy reforms in industrialized countries and emerging economies could contribute $10 billion a year to a climate fund, it said.
Mon, 2011-09-19 15:04Ben Jervey
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EnergyNOW! Tackles Keystone XL, And Talks To Me About Pipelines

EnergyNOW! news on Keystone XL pipeline

On Sunday, energyNOW! news tackled the Keystone XL debate in a wide-ranging half hour program that covered the controversial pipeline in typically comprehensive fashion.

An overview intro segment looks at the “impact on America,” from the alleged reduction of imports of OPEC crude to potential for pollution. Reporter Thalia Assuras' trip to Nebraska to talk to local 'Huskers – landowners and politicians alike – is fascinating.

The show then travels up to Alberta, whose Athabasca tar sands reserves would feed the Keystone XL pipeline, funneling filthy DilBit crude down to Gulf Coast refineries.

The last segment features an exclusive interview with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, which they teased a few weeks back. (And which, you might recall, I responded to at the time, calling his claim that Keystone XL would increase our national “energy security” cynical politics.)

If you're able to spend a half hour learning about this urgent hot-button issue, this show is a great place to start. If you can't see the embedded video below, you can watch on energyNOW's website.

Fri, 2011-09-16 10:58Ben Jervey
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America's Woefully Inadequate Oversight of Pipeline Safety: A New York Times Stunner

Last week, the New York Times published a bombshell of an expose about the government's woefully inadequate program to monitor and ensure the security and safety of American energy pipelines. I’ve spent a lot of time lately investigating the state of North American energy pipelines, and this is by far the best overview I’ve seen of the government’s feckless attempt to oversee the sprawling system and protect the public from spills, leaks, and explosions.

Reporters Dan Frosch and Janet Roberts dig into federal government records and safety documents and surface some truly startling findings. Like the fact that there are “still more than 100 significant spills each year.” (“Significant” spills being those that cause a fire, serious injury or death, or release over 2,100 gallons.)

Or that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration only requires companies to focus their inspections on “the 44 percent of the nation’s land-based liquid pipelines that could affect high consequence areas — those near population centers or considered environmentally delicate — which leaves thousands of miles of lines loosely regulated and operating essentially on the honor system.” Or the fact that the agency doesn’t even employ as many inspectors as federal law demands.

It’s well worth reading the whole expose, but here’s the crucial takeaway:

Wed, 2011-09-14 15:02Farron Cousins
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Deepwater Horizon Still A Massive Headache For BP

The problems facing BP along the Gulf Coast continue to pile up. After more than a year of investigations, the U.S. Coast Guard has finally released their long-awaited assessment of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion. Their conclusion was that the ultimate blame for the disaster rests squarely on BP’s shoulders.

The new report, put together by The Coast Guard-Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), was among the most exhaustive investigations to date, according to Reuters. The report claims that the decisions made by BP in the days before the rig explosion are what led to the catastrophe. Among those were BP’s decision to ignore the safeguarding of the cement plug, and the oil company’s decision to only use one type of cement to seal the well. The report also said that the location that BP chose for the casing was very poor, making it difficult to access in an emergency.

The new report does lay some blame at the feet of other companies involved, including Transocean and Halliburton, but they said that at the end of the day, BP was in charge of the decision-making process, and therefore they are the responsible party. This is a far cry from a recent report by Marshall Islands investigators, who recently pinned the blame for the disaster on the rig workers themselves, rather than the companies involved in the rig’s management. The new report is on par with other reports that also put most of the blame on BP.

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