DeSmog Canada has been named as a finalist for “Best News Coverage” by the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.
The UK government has been fiercely criticised after Chancellor George Osborne quietly scrapped a £1bn project to cut carbon emissions...
Right now Canadians stare down the barrel of a 31-year long legal trade agreement with the Chinese government that did not become public knowledge until September 26, 2012.
The trade treaty, known as the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement or FIPA, has garnered notable opposition in the past three weeks, with NDP trade critic Don Davies calling for public hearings, Green Party MP Elizabeth May calling for an emergency Parliamentary debate, and campaign organizations Leadnow.ca and SumofUs.org gathering over 39,300 opposition signatures (and counting) to deliver in person to Ottawa.
Yesterday, the Canadian Press reported the Harper government's refusal to host public hearings. Elizabeth May's October 1 request was also denied on the grounds that FIPA does not meet the test of emergency.
The trade agreement, or treaty, as it is called, is slated for ratification at the end of this month. The Commons trade committee will be briefed on the document in a one hour hearing.
With a trade deal that threatens Canadian sovereignty looming on the horizon and a government committed to expediting its approval, DeSmog caught up with trade investment lawyer and Osgoode professor Gus Van Harten to talk through some of the details.
This is a guest post by Janet MacGillivray, Legal Coordinator and Campaign Strategic Advisor with Tar Sands Blockade.
Today, former TransCanada engineer Evan Vokes blew the whistle on his company's incompetent pipeline inspectors and non-compliance with Canada's welding regulations. In an exclusive television interview with CBC News, Vokes detailed his extensive efforts to warn his employer that it was acting irresponsibly and that a pipeline disaster could result.
As someone who just recently signed up to take action against TransCanada's irresponsible Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, this revelation confirms that all those concerned with this dangerous TransCanada project are right to fight it. Vokes' brave step forward to reveal the company's negligence will provide even more inspiration to those working to ensure that TransCanada's Keystone XL dreams remain a fantasy.
I recently picked up a copy of Francis Fukuyama's 2011 book, The Origins of Political Order. Sitting on the bedside table at the house I was staying at, the book made for some 'light' bedtime reading. I heaved the enormous tome onto my lap and, opening it to a random page, read this alarming passage:
There is no rule of law in China today: the Chinese Communist Party does not accept the authority of any other institution in China as superior to it or able to overturn its decisions. Although the People's Republic of China has a constitution, the party makes the constitution rather than the reverse. If the current Chinese government wanted to nationalize all existing foreign investments, or renationalize the holdings of private individuals and return the country to Maoism, there is no legal framework preventing it from doing so. (Pg 248)
My concerns with China's treatment of foreign investments arose in light of China's recent bid for Nexen, a Canadian company with large holdings in the Alberta tar sands. Since Canada is having trouble with the management of the tar sands now, what would it look like if we had Chinese state-owned enterprises like the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) in the mix?
It turns out the problem is of magnitudes greater than I had originally conceived, and concerns not only Canada's management of its resources, but its sovereignty, its democracy, and the protection of the rights and values of its citizens.
Perhaps most strikingly, Canada is embracing this threat, showing telltale signs the real culprit in this dangerous deal isn't China at all.
In order to untangle the web of an international trade deal as complex as the China-Canada Investment Treaty, which establishes the terms of the Nexen deal - the biggest overseas takeover by a Chinese company - I spoke with Professor Gus Van Harten of Osgoode Law School, an expert on foreign investment deals of this sort.
Below is Part 1 of our interview:
A huge report was published on Oct. 10 by Los Angeles County that'll likely open the floodgates for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for unconventional oil and gas in the Monterey Shale basin. The report, as it turns out, was done by LA County in name only.
As the Los Angeles Times explained, the study found “no harm from the method” of fracking as it pertains to extracting shale gas and oil from the Inglewood Oil Field, which the Times explains is “the largest urban oil field in the country.”
In the opening paragraphs of his article, Ruben Vives of the Times wrote,
A long-awaited study released Wednesday says the controversial oil extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would not harm the environment if used at the Inglewood Oil Field in the Baldwin Hills area.
The yearlong study included several issues raised by residents living around the field, such as the potential risks for groundwater contamination, air pollution and increased seismic activity.
It's not until the middle of the story that Vives says the study wasn't done by LA County itself, but rather what he describes as a “consulting firm that conducted the study” by the name of Cardno Entrix.
Cardno Entrix isn't any ordinary “consulting firm.”
Here's a rule of thumb: if something is so toxic that birds die when they land on it, it's probably a good idea to put a cover on it.
In Texas yesterday, a federal district court upheld a criminal conviction against the oil refinery giant Citgo Petroleum after migratory birds landed in two open-top refinery tanks and died. Under Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules and Texas law such tanks are supposed to be covered. The court found that the company had known birds were landing and dying in their tanks but failed to do anything about it.
Citgo faces some $2 million in fines. A too small price to pay I think for their negligent behavior.
In Canada's tar sands, similar cases of migratory bird deaths have been ruled very differently. Many will remember the story in 2008 when 1600 ducks landed on the massive lakes of tar sands toxic by-products and died.
Enbridge recently launched a renewed attack on Canadian environmental organizations, demanding the panel overseeing the Northern Gateway Pipeline hearing squeeze funding information from the project's critics.
In early 2012, a campaign - coordinated by the conservative government, the oil industry and the astroturf Ethical Oil Institute - sought to undermine the credibility of groups opposing the pipeline by suggesting they are “foreign interest groups” that “threaten to hijack our regulatory system to achieve their radical ideological agenda” as Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver so forcefully put it.
Now Enbridge is renewing that egregious attack by requesting the panel investigate funding granted to Canadian environmental groups from a number of prominent American foundations renowned for their work in social and environmental equity, including poverty reduction, aboriginal issues, conservation, resource management, international development, and children and peace initiatives.
But Enbridge's ploy to redirect public attention away from tar sands, pipeline and oil spill issues toward the meddling of foreign interests in Canadian affairs is misguided, to say the least. The lion's share of foreign funding that guides the Canadian resource economy does not come in the form of conservation or environmental efforts: it comes through foreign investment in the resource sector.
And in the instance of the tar sands and related pipelines, foreign investments can be a politically, environmentally and socially dangerous affair.
We’ve talked a lot here on DeSmogBlog about oil (and tar sands crude) pipelines. You know, like the Keystone XL, which TransCanada is currently ramming through Texas, using whatever means necessary (including violence), and Enbridge's Northern Gateway, which was just declared “dead” by one of Canada's top newspapers.
And we’ve talked quite a bit about coal trains. All for very good reason. But we haven’t ever delved into the growing trend of shipping oil by train. Trains are a crucial – and growing – part of oil industry infrastructure, so it’s worthwhile to take a step back and get some perspective on this remarkable system. Understanding oil trains will help you understand, for instance, why oil markets are paying little attention to the pipeline debates.
Let’s start with the raw numbers.
Every week, over 17,000 carloads of oil are shipped in the U.S. and Canada. With roughly 600 to 700 barrels of oil in each carload, that’s between 1.4 and 1.6 million barrels of oil on the U.S. and Canadian rails every day. And these numbers are growing fast. This chart says it all.
This week, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA), an industry-funded consultancy group in Alberta, released the End Pit Lakes Guidance Document to the Government of Alberta for review. The 434-page document outlines a 100-year plan to integrate open-pit mines and tar sands tailings into Northern Alberta's local ecosystem, introducing what they call a 'reclaimed lake district' as a long-term alternative to the temporary tailings ponds that currently hold the billions of gallons of water, sand, clay, hydrocarbons, naphthenic acids, salt and other byproducts of the bitumen extraction and upgrading process.
“I GUESS it is easy being green,” said Kermit the Frog as he bounced around a Ford Escape Hybrid in a 2006 television ad campaign.
During the ad, Kermit displayed his innate talent for not blinking which, it has to be said, is due essentially to his congenital lack of eyelids.
But had Kermit blinked, he would have missed the small print at the bottom of the ad which showed that at the time, this “green” vehicle had a fuel consumption slightly worse than the US average.
But that seems to be the rule when it comes to claims of climate-friendliness made by some of the world's biggest brands.
Check the small print, and the responsible green hue soon fades to something resembling bullsh*t-brown (or whatever color denotes hypocrisy). At least that's the conclusion after reading Australian author and researcher Guy Pearse's latest book. Pearse spent close to four years immersing himself in some 3000 TV commercials and viewing about 4000 print and web adverts, all of which make claims of climate friendliness (I disclose here that I had a small paid role as a fact-checker on the book).
After checking the brand's actual contribution to climate change (or their lack of transparency) in more than 700 company reports, Pearse finds in Greenwash: Big Brands and Carbon Scams that the green revolution is being either grossly overblown or faked.