The American Petroleum Institute (API) successfully lobbied for an end to the 40-year ban on exporting U.S.-produced crude oil in part by making a geopolitical argument: Iran and Russia have the ability to export their oil, so why not unleash America?
Major fossil fuel companies have today released a Joint Collaborative Declaration under the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) recognising the need to limit global average temperature rise to 2⁰C. Launched in Paris this morning, they are calling for an “effective climate change agreement at COP21”.
In the declaration, ten oil and gas giants call for “widespread and effective pricing of carbon emissions”. Signatories include the CEOs of Total, Statoil, BP, Shell, BG Group, Saudi Aramco, Pemex, Sinopec, Eni, Reliance, and Repsol.
The companies also back natural gas as a cleaner alternative to coal and want to see more research and development into renewables and carbon capture and storage. However, the declaration has been criticised for lacking concrete targets.
Environmental Resources Management (ERM Group), the consultancy selected by TransCanada to conduct the environmental review for Keystone XL's northern leg on behalf of the U.S. State Department, is no stranger to scandal.
Exhibit A: ERM once bribed a Chinese official to ram through major pieces of an industrial development project. ERM was tasked to push through the project in Hangzhou Bay, located near Shanghai.
Accepting the bribe landed Yan Shunjun, former deputy head of the Shanghai Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau, an 11-year prison sentence.
Yan “allegedly took bribes of 864,000 yuan (126,501 U.S. dollars), 20,000 U.S. dollars and 4,000 euros from seven contractors,” explained Xiuhuanet. “Yan was also accused of illegally setting up a channel to speed up environmental impact assessment processes, which are essential for companies wanting to build factories.”
BP, one of the companies standing to gain if Keystone XL North receives a presidential permit from the Obama administration as a major Alberta tar sands producer, was also mired in the Chinese ERM Group scandal.
“Two firms on ERM's bluechip client list, BP and Sinopec, are big investors in a petrochemical complex on the site, but the Chinese authorities apparently saw no conflict of interest in awarding the environmental evaluation to ERM,” explained London's Sunday Times.
In a sense, history has repeated itself.
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.
Jim Hoggan, DeSmogBlog co-founder and president, has an op-ed in the Vancouver Sun today discussing the “ethical oil” crowd's attacks on democracy in the Enbridge Northern Gateway public hearings. Head over to the Vancouver Sun to read it: “Who gets a say in our democracy?”
Here is an excerpt from the ending:
If [Joe Oliver or Stephen Harper] is concerned that over the years the California-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has given $1.3 million to the Pem-bina Foundation for Environmental Research and Education, then they should be even more troubled that, during the same period, the Hewletts gave $40 million to the government's own International Development Research Centre. Apparently, Oliver's “radicals” fuelled by “foreign special interests” are as close as the nearest mirror.
If Enbridge or its political boosters wants to pipe unrefined Canadian bitumen directly to the most treacherous waters in the north Pacific - and then, by supertanker, into the hands of the Chinese - they should make their case. Attacking the rights of others to have input is a dodge unworthy of a democracy as advanced and robust as ours.
Read more at the Vancouver Sun.
A year ago Enbridge CEO Pat Daniel announced a new foreign partner for its Northern Gateway Pipeline project.
Daniel told a meeting in Whistler, BC that Sinopec, China’s second largest oil company, was investing an undisclosed amount in the pipeline approval process in return for a guaranteed place on the pipeline and the right to pony up for an equity stake in the $5+ billion project.
Enbridge’s Northern Pipeline project is a dual pipeline designed to deliver tar sands oil to tanker ports in Northern BC for delivery by tanker to refineries in China and other points east. The pipeline approval process starts next month in Kitimat and is estimated to take up to 18 months.
Fast forward a year. An oil industry front group headquartered in the office of Alberta tar sands legal specialists McLennan Ross announces it will be launching an advertising campaign attacking Northern Gateway critics. The front group refuses to disclose its funding source for the ad campaign.
The group, Ethical Oil, was set up by refugees from the Tory war room, Sun News and Prime Minister Harper’s office. It’s ad campaign claims that opponents are serving the energy interests of foreign powers and companies with ethically challenged records.
But here’s a question.