Barack Obama

Wed, 2012-05-02 10:04Steve Horn
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ALEC Wasn't First Industry Trojan Horse Behind Fracking Disclosure Bill - Enter Council of State Governments

19th Century German statesman Otto von Bismarck once said, “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), put on the map by the Center for Media and Democracy in its “ALEC Exposed” project, is the archetype of von Bismarck's truism. So too are the fracking chemical disclosure bills that have passed and are currently being pushed for in statehouses nationwide.

State-level fracking chemical disclosure bills have been called a key piece of reform in the push to hold the unconventional gas industry accountable for its actions. The reality, though, is murkier.

On April 21, The New York Times penned an investigation making that clear. The Times wrote:

Last December, ALEC adopted model legislation, based on a Texas law, addressing the public disclosure of chemicals in drilling fluids used to extract natural gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The ALEC legislation, which has since provided the basis for similar bills submitted in five states, has been promoted as a victory for consumers’ right to know about potential drinking water contaminants.

A close reading of the bill, however, reveals loopholes that would allow energy companies to withhold the names of certain fluid contents, for reasons including that they have been deemed trade secrets. Most telling, perhaps, the bill was sponsored within ALEC by ExxonMobil, one of the largest practitioners of fracking — something not explained when ALEC lawmakers introduced their bills back home.

The Texas law The Times refers to is HB 3328, passed in June 2011 in a 137-8 roll call vote, while its Senate companion bill passed on a 31-0 unanimous roll call vote. Since then, variations of the model bill have passed in two other key states in which fracking is occuring.

Like dominos falling in quick succession over the following months, ColoradoPennsylvania and, most recently, the Illinois Senate passed bills based on the ALEC model. Louisiana also has introduced a similar bill. 

Wed, 2012-04-25 13:58Steve Horn
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2008 Shell Nigeria Oil Spill 60 Times Larger Than Originally Claimed

Amnesty International and the Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) dropped a bombshell early this week, unveiling documents pertaining to the Royal Dutch Shell Oil 2008 Bodo oil pipeline spill.

The documents indicate that the Shell spill released 60 times the amount of oil Shell had originally reported in the ravaged Niger Delta coastal town with a population of 60,000 people.

In a press release, Amnesty explained its findings:

The previously unpublished assessment, carried out by US firm Accufacts, found that between 1,440 and 4,320 barrels of oil were flooding the Bodo area each day following the leak. The Nigerian regulators have confirmed that the spill lasted for 72 days.

Shell’s official investigation report claims only 1,640 barrels of oil were spilt in total. But based on the independent assessment the total amount of oil spilt over the 72 day period is between 103,000 barrels and 311,000 barrels.

Adding insult to injury, Shell has yet to begin to clean up what it has destroyed. “More than three years after the Bodo oil spill, Shell has yet to conduct a proper clean up or to pay any official compensation to the affected communities,” wrote Amnesty.

Sun, 2012-04-01 16:22Steve Horn
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Investors: No More Flaring of Fracked Oil and Gas in Bakken Shale

The debate over flaring unconventional oil and gas in shale basins across the United States has suddenly heated up immensely (excuse the bad pun). 

On March 27, the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economy (CERES) penned a letter calling for an end to the practice, writing,

We are a group of 37 investors, representing $500 billion in total assets, who areconcerned about the financial risks associated with the flaring of natural gas that has accompanied fast-proliferating oil production from shale formations in North Dakota, Texas and elsewhere in the U.S.

We are concerned that excessive flaring, because of its impact on air quality and climate change, poses significant risks for the companies involved, and for the industry at large,ultimately threatening the industry’s license to operate.

As you know, shale oil production, made possible by hydraulic fracturing technology,…is poised to become the world’s largest oil producer in the next five years, with nearly all of this projected growth coming from shale oil. …

On a lifecycle basis, emissions from oil produced with high flaring rates may be comparable to those from Canada’s vast oil sands region.

The letter ended by calling for the building up of proper infrastructure, such as pipelines and refineries, in order to push for an eliminiation of the dirty practice. CERES concluded the letter with a firm request, stating, “We therefore are writing to request information about the amount your company is currently flaring, as well as details about your plans to reduce flaring at existing wells and prevent it at future wells.”

Letter signarories included As You SowPresbyterian Church (USA)Turner Investments, and Praxis Mutual Funds, to name several.

Fri, 2012-02-03 13:00Steve Horn
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Warren Buffett Exposed: The Oracle of Omaha and the Tar Sands

Credit: Pete Souza, Office of the President

On January 23, Bloomberg News reported Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), owned by his lucrative holding company Berkshire Hathaway, stands to benefit greatly from President Barack Obama’s recent cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline

If built, TransCanada's Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline would carry tar sands crude, or bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta, B.C. down to Port Arthur, Texas, where it would be sold on the global export market

If not built, as revealed recently by DeSmogBlog, the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side, and could include increased levels of ecologically hazardous gas flaring in the Bakken Shale, or else many other pipeline routes moving the prized dilbit to crucial global markets.

Rail is among the most important infrastructure options for ensuring tar sands crude still moves to key global markets, and the industry is pursuing rail actively. But transporting tar sands crude via rail is in many ways a dirtier alternative to the KXL pipeline. “Railroads too present environmental issues. Moving crude on trains produces more global warming gases than a pipeline,” explained Bloomberg.

A key mover and shaker behind the push for more rail shipments is Warren Buffett, known by some as the “Oracle of Omaha” – of “Buffett Tax” fame – and the third richest man in the world, with a net worth of $39 billion. With or without Keystone XL, Warren Buffett stands to profit enormously from multiple aspects of the Alberta Tar Sands project. He also, importantly, maintains close ties with President Barack Obama.

Mon, 2012-01-23 21:38Steve Horn
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Demise of Keystone XL Means More Bakken Shale Gas Flaring

Damned if we do, damned if we don't - this is the CliffsNotes version of the ongoing Keystone XL pipeline debate. President Barack Obama recently halted TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project, which would bring tar sands crude, or dilluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta through the heart of the U.S., to Gulf Coast refineries near Port Arthur, Texas, where the oil would then be exported to the global market.

Most environmental organizations declared victory and suggest the Keystone XL pipeline is dead. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. Republican House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) recently told The Hill he may attempt to rope the pipeline into the next payroll tax extension. Furthermore, a recent Congressional Research Services (CRSpaper said that under a little-used Consitutional clause, the two chambers of Congress, rather than the White House, could have the final say on the pipeline's ultimate destiny. CRS explained, 

[I]f Congress chose to assert its authority in the area of border crossing facilities, this would likely be considered within its Constitutionally enumerated authority to regulate foreign commerce.

Because the pipeline crosses the U.S.-Canada border, many thought that the U.S. State Department, and by extension the White House, had the final say in the manner. This may no longer be true.

On the other hand, even if the Keystone XL becomes a “pipe dream,” the grass isn't necessarily greener on the other side.

Fri, 2011-12-09 10:24Steve Horn
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Fracking Ohio's Utica Shale to "Boost Local Economy"? A "Total" Sham

It is a well-known fact that the unconventional gas industry is involved in an inherently toxic business, particularly through hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), which the EPA just confirmed has contaminated groundwater in Wyoming. The documentary film “Gasland,” DeSmogBlog's report “Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens our Water, Health, and Climate,” and numerous other investigations, reports, and scientific studies have echoed the myriad problems with unconventional oil and gas around the globe.

What is less well-known, but arguably equally as important, is who exactly stands to benefit economically from the destruction of our land, air, and water in the gas industry's rush to profit from the fracking bonanza. The U.S oil and gas industry would have us believe that they are principally focused on ushering in American energy independence. But their claims are increasingly suspect as the real motivation of this industry becomes clearer by the day.

A hint: it's not the small “mom and pop,” independent gas companies, but multinational oil and gas corporations. Another hint: it's often not even American multinational oil and gas corporations, but rather, foreign-based multinational oil and gas corporations who stand to gain the most.

France's Total S.A. Enters Ohio's Utica Shale, as well as Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya

On December 7, Bloomberg's Businessweek reported that Total S.A. is positioning itself to acquire 25 percent of Chesapeake Energy’s stake in Ohio's Utica Shale, valued at $2.14 Billion

Total S.A., the largest oil and gas producer in France, is a multinational corporation perhaps most notorious for its involvement in Iraq's “Oil-For-Food” scandal. In 2010, Total S.A. was accused of bribing former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's officials to secure oil supplies. 

Thu, 2011-12-08 10:48Steve Horn
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Climate Denier Marc Morano Praises "George W. Obama" at COP17

If the jury was still out on President Barack Obama's climate policy accolades (a huge “if”), consider the verdict now in, and from a surprising character at that: Marc Morano.

Morano jubilantly referred to the President as “George W. Obama” in an interview with Democracy Nowhost Amy Goodman at COP17, stating: 

They [the Obama administration] have kept the exact same principles and negotiating stance as President George Bush did for eight years. Obama has carried on Bush’s legacy. So as skeptics, we tip our hat to President Obama in helping to crush and continuing to defeat the United Nations process. Obama has been a great friend of global warming skeptics at these conferences.

Watch:

Tue, 2011-11-01 17:59Brendan DeMelle
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Obama - Not Hillary Clinton - Will Decide Keystone XL Pipeline Fate

In a clear sign that President Obama recognizes that Hillary Clinton is too compromised by conflict of interest given the web of crony tar sands lobbyists around her to make the decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, Obama announced today that he will make the call personally.  And some of his comments in an interview this afternoon indicate that he has serious reservations about the Keystone XL and the thought of the U.S. making a long-term commitment to Canada's filthy tar sands oil. 


Obama made the announcement about taking personal responsibility for the Keystone XL decision during an interview with Nebraska's KETV NewsWatch 7.  Interviewer Rob McCartney asked, “how do you weigh any potential negative impact with the jobs that it may bring in?” 
 
PoliticoPro has the transcript of the President's remarks, excerpted here (and corrected in a few spots):


“The State Department's in charge of analyzing this, because there's a pipeline coming in from Canada,” Obama told KETV’s Rob McCartney in the White House. “They'll be giving me a report over the next several months, and, you know, my general attitude is, what is best for the American people? What’s best for our economy both short term and long term? But also, what's best for the health of the American people? Because we don’t want, for example, aquifers that are adversely affected, folks in Nebraska obviously would be directly impacted, and so we want to make sure that we’re taking the long view on these issues.

“We need to encourage domestic natural gas and oil production. We need to make sure that we have energy security and aren’t just relying on Middle East sources. But there’s a way of doing that and still making sure that the health and safety of the American people and folks in Nebraska are protected, and that’s how I’ll be measuring these recommendations when they come to me.”
Obama gave more hints that he's not buying the idea that the industry's “jobs” argument is worth the trade-off of polluted water and public health impacts.  

More from the must-watch KETV interview with President Obama:
Sun, 2011-10-30 22:12Steve Horn
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Opposition to Keystone XL Pipeline Heating Up

Photo by Robert van Waarden

The fight against the Keystone XL Pipeline is heating up, with many positive and important developments occuring this past week, excluding the disgraceful, though unsurprising decision by the Obama for President 2012 campaign team to bring a former TransCanada lobbyist, Broderick Johnson (husband of NPR's Michele Norris), onto its upper-level staff.

Six main big ticket items stand out, in particular:

  • call for a U.S. State Department Office of the Inspector General probe into the Keystone XL pipeline review process by 14 U.S. Congressional members.
  • call for a special session to occur on November 1 by Nebraska Republican Governor Dave Heineman regarding pipeline safety concerns.
  • meeting between leaders of the youth climate movement and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson on the pipeline.
  • A recent massive anti-pipeline action that took place in San Francisco, in which 1,000 protesters greeted Obama at one of his fundraising events for his 2012 presidential run.
  • An announced push-back of the Keystone XL pipeline final decision date by the State Department. 
  • An acknowledgement, at last, by President Barack Obama that he is taking into consideration the concerns voiced by citizens nationwide about the potential risks to public health, water supplies and the global climate if he approves the Keystone XL pipeline.

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.” 

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