Fri, 2014-07-11 15:06Kevin Grandia
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Powerline & Hinderaker's Cynical Attack on Tom Steyer Likely a Welcome Diversion for Koch Brothers

The bloggers over at Powerline, led in this case by the Koch-cozy John Hinderaker, are all in a tizzy this week after the New York Times reported that Tom Steyer, a major political force in the fight for climate justice, used to invest heavily in coal mining operations.

I think Powerline has either misread the Times story or has conveniently ignored the fact that Tom Steyer used to invest in coal, but since transitioning from his career as a hedge fund manager to his new role as a full-time climate action crusader, he has divested himself of interests in carbon-intensive industries. 

This nothingburger story is being trumped up by Powerline and the right-wing echo chamber as proof of hypocrisy in Steyer's commitment to fighting climate change.

Powerline blogger John Hinderaker calls the Steyer story “epic hypocrisy.” The only thing epic here is that the seemingly intelligent Mr. Hinderaker does not understand what hypocrisy actually is

To call Steyer a hypocrite would mean Steyer was saying he is committed to fighting climate change, while behind the scenes still actively investing in things like coal mines.

But he is not. As Bill McKibben points out on Huffington Post, what Steyer did was change his mind on the issue of climate change, which is exactly the right thing to do. Like anything in life, you can change course as you get more information. 

While Powerline and Hinderaker are all too eager to criticize Steyer for ending his career as a multi-billionaire investor to devote his time to fighting what scientists are calling the greatest threat to humanity, they are at the same time even more happy to act as cheerleaders for David and Charles Koch, two men who are, in many ways, Steyer's antithesis. 

Fri, 2014-07-11 13:48Justin Mikulka
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Leaked Trade Deal Document Shows EU Pressuring U.S. to Lift Crude Oil Export Ban

Oil tanker

A secret document regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations leaked this week shows that oil companies have just as much influence over the governments of the European Union as they do over the government of the U.S. 

In the two-page document, the EU makes several arguments about why the TTIP should require the lifting of the U.S. ban on exporting crude oil, including pushing to add a “strong and comprehensive” chapter that would “combine our support for procompetitive regulation while also lifting bilateral restrictions on gas and crude oil, will show our common resolve to increase security and stability through open markets.”

In a revealing statement to the Washington Post, U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for Europe Peter Chase cut to the chase about what was really happening in these negotiations and who was calling the shots.

“Because U.S. and European companies, including energy companies, have invested heavily on both sides of the Atlantic, U.S. and EU negotiators are essentially representing the same company interests,” Chase said.

When both sides of a negotiation want the same thing, it is easy to see what the outcome will be.

Thu, 2014-07-10 11:31Justin Mikulka
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Oil Train Blast Zone Website Lets You See Your Proximity to Bomb Trains

Baltimore blast zone oil trains

As part of the ongoing oil-by-rail Week of Action, ForestEthics has launched a new Oil Train Blast Zone website that allows people to search their address and determine if they are within the estimated blast zones for the trains carrying highly flammable crude oil, known as “bomb trains.”  

Millions of North Americans live in the blast zone, do you?” asks Todd Paglia, ForestEthics executive director. “Citizens understand the danger, it's time for policy makers to catch up and step up.”

The website shows the current known routes of the oil trains and highlights the areas that fall within the Department of Transportation’s recommended evacuation zones for oil train derailments (0.5 miles) and the potential impact zones if there is an oil train fire (1.0 mile).

blast zone.png

Finding yourself within these blast zone areas is particularly troubling because, as previously reported on DeSmogBlog, it has been well established that no community is prepared to respond to a worst case scenario oil train accident.  

Wed, 2014-07-09 12:14Kevin Grandia
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Oil Companies Gambling Billions of Dollars Ignoring Global Warming Realities

Companies like Shell Oil really need to give their eyes a rub and see that a world with serious constraints on greenhouse gas emissions is not a possible future, but an eventual reality.

Right now, oil companies are investing billions in long term plays in very carbon intensive fuels, like Canada's oil sands, while at the same time there are more and more signs that strict regulations on such operations are on the near horizon.

You don't need to look much further than the years of delays on the Keystone XL pipeline to see that governments are starting to second guess these big cash layouts on climate-risky projects. 

Or take for instance, the federal court ruling last week that halted a proposed coal mining operation in Colorado stating that the “social costs” of contributions the mine would make to worsening impacts of climate change in the future were not taken into consideration.

This ruling on the grounds of future social costs should be a 'canary in the coal mine' wake-up call for companies still considering investing big dollars in long-term carbon-intensive projects.

Wed, 2014-07-09 10:38Justin Mikulka
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Fox Guarding Henhouse: Oil-By-Rail Standards Led by American Petroleum Institute

How did it get missed for the last ten years?”

That was the question Deborah Hersman, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), posed to a panel of industry representatives back in April about how the rail industry had missed the fact that Bakken oil is more explosive than traditional crude oil.

How do we move to an environment where commodities are classified in the right containers from the get go and not just put in until we figure out that there’s a problem,” Hersman asked during the two-day forum on transportation of crude oil and ethanol. “Is there a process for that?”

The first panelist to respond was Robert Fronczak, assistant vice president of environmental and hazardous materials for the Association of American Railroads (AAR). His response was telling.

We’ve know about this long before Lac-Megantic and that is why we initiated the tank car committee activity and passed CPC-1232 in 2011,” Fronczak replied, “To ask why the standards are the way they are, you’d have to ask DOT that.”

So, now as the new oil-by-rail safety regulations have been sent from the Department of Transportation (DOT) to the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, it seems like a good time to review Hersman’s questions.

How did we miss this? Is there a process to properly classify commodities for the right container before they are ever shipped? 

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