Shell Abandons Alberta Tar Sands Emissions Cuts - See You In Court

The Alberta tar sands just took another humiliating PR hit. Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell reneged on a legal commitment to reduce carbon emissions for a massive $13.7 billion tar sands expansion down to those of conventional oil.

Now why would Shell do that? Perhaps because it can’t be done.

Tar sands emissions are at least three times those of conventional oil and likely to rise as near-surface deposits are exhausted. So-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) for the tar sands have been panned both by experts and the marketplace. The Alberta and Canadian governments have been told it won’t work but that has not stopped them from plowing $500,000 a year into Washington-based lobbying.

Now comes word that Shell is abandoning a legal commitment that was a condition of their regulatory approval back in 2007. According to Pembina Institute, this backsliding will add an additional 900,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually or the equivalent of putting 200,000 more cars on the road.

You can bet that this mess is heading to court. EcoJustice Canada have already filed an affidavit with Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and the federal government requesting that the approval of the Jackpine Mine and Muskeg River Mine expansion tar sands projects be overturned.

Canada's Prime Minister Installs Tar Sands Exec as "Clean Energy" Envoy to US

The Harper Government just sent a clear signal of the real agenda for the so-called “clean energy dialogue” with US government.

Under intense questioning from opposition politicians, Ottawa finally fessed up that former tar sands executive Charlie Fisher will represent Canada in these high level negotiations with Obama Administration.

Long-time observers of Canada’s already pathetic record on climate change were understandably apoplectic.

Appointing Charlie Fischer sends a clear signal that this is about promoting the tar sands, period,” said Stephen Hazell, executive director of Sierra Club Canada.

The government of Canada seems to be coming at this whole clean energy dialogue from the perspective of how can they get special exemptions for the tar sands industry so that, when a cap-and-trade system is implemented, the tar sands aren’t affected.”

Until last December, Fisher was the president and chief executive officer of Calgary-based oil giant Nexen, which has a huge stake in the continued expansion in the Alberta tar sands.

Just last December they ponyed up an additional $735-million in a property that has about 2 billion barrels of extractable crude locked up in tarry bitumen. The company also owns 7% of tar sands giant Syncrude.

If Fisher’s recent leadership of a major oil sands player is not enough to completely compromise his involvement in “clean energy” negotiations with the US, he also had (and may still have) a hefty personal stake in the tar sands.

As of December, Fischer owned over 500,000 common shares in Nexen, then worth about $9.5 million, as well as options on three million more shares. Since he is no longer required to report these trades, the public no longer knows what his personal involvement is.

Oh yeah, he was also a registered lobbyist up until January of this year.

In one of the better straight lines in modern Canadian political history, the Harper government deadpanned: “Every step will be taken to ensure the integrity of the working groups are maintained.”

Big Oil to Obama: "Over Our Dead Bodies!"

The Obama administration wants to reduce oil consumption, increase renewable energy supplies and cut carbon dioxide emissions in the most ambitious transformation of energy policy in a generation. But even as Washington goes into a frenzy over energy, many of the oil companies are staying on the sidelines, balking at investing in new technologies favored by the president, or even straying from commitments they had already made.

MSNBC taps think tanker Pat Michaels for expert advice

MSNBC aired a piece last night on the latest sea ice melt news being reported by scientists. Instead of finding an expert with credentials in sea ice melt, MSNBC reporter Tracie Potts tapped the thoroughly discredited scientist-for-hire Patrick Michaels.

It’s not hard to find an expert who is actually conducting research on Arctic Sea Ice - I found over 50 in about 3 seconds on Google.

Michaels works for the Cato Institute in Washington, DC, a right wing think tank at the forefront of the climate denial industry - you would think MSNBC could find someone with a little more credibility than that.

This is the same Patrick Michaels who dropped himself as an expert witness for the auto industry when the court demanded that he disclose the client list for his “environmental” consulting firm. This is also the same Patrick Michaels who was drummed out of his position of Virginia’s State Climatologist because of his industry funding.

I guess he just has a lot of time on his hands. Here’s a link to the video. It’s amazing how ridiculous deniers like Michaels are starting to look, with images of glaciers collapsing and sea ice melting behind him while telling viewers that they have nothing to worry about.

Peer Review and the Science Versus Opinion Smackdown

Peer Review - a process by which something proposed (as for research or publication) is evaluated by a group of experts in the appropriate field. – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Over the weekend, Brian Angliss posted a piece over at Scholars and Rogues on why scientific peer review matters. He wrote it in response to climate change deniers who like to argue that peer review is useless and therefore, just because climate science is peer reviewed, it isn’t necessarily true.

Unfortunately for the denier community, it’s a little more complicated than that. As Angliss writes:

One major misconception about all varieties of peer review is that the reviews guarantee no errors in the final product.

What peer review does is start a process of finding and correcting errors, which generally continues upon and after publication, Angliss explains. It is another step in the scientific method of gathering data and testing hypotheses to solve a problem or understand an issue. Because of this method, scientific understanding often builds and deepens over time. That does not make the original assumptions or theories incorrect.

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