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Sun, 2014-10-12 06:00Ben Jervey
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Statoil to Drill Canada's First Deepwater Offshore Oil Well After Bailing on Alberta's Tar Sands

Climate campaigners and tar sands blockaders widely celebrated the announcement last month that the Norwegian energy company Statoil was halting plans for a multi-billion dollar tar sands project in Alberta, Canada. The company cited rising costs of labor and materials in Alberta, and also blamed “limited pipeline access” for “squeezing away the Alberta margins a little bit,” a point that anti-Keystone XL activists have taken as a clear sign of victory.

Don’t take your eyes off of Statoil, however. The company is quietly reallocating the estimated $2 billion investment to pursue a massive deepwater offshore project off the east coast of Newfoundland, in harsh, sub-Arctic conditions adjacent to an area drillers refer to as “iceberg alley.”

Fri, 2014-09-12 15:40Carol Linnitt
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David Suzuki Headlines DeSmog Canada's Kickstarter Campaign to Clean Up Canada's Climate and Energy Debate

DeSmog Canada is excited to announce the launch of our new crowdfunding campaign: “Let’s Clean Up Canada’s Climate and Energy Debate.”

For the past 18 months, DeSmog Canada has delivered cutting-edge investigative journalism to clean up Canada's polluted public square and foster science-based debate on climate and energy issues. Now, we are ready to take it to the next level.

Over the next thirty days, we need your help to raise $50,000 to fund our upcoming work that will focus on three priorities:

  • leading in-depth investigations of government and industry spending on multi-million dollar ad campaigns to sell oil development and pipelines instead of clean energy solutions,
  • shining a light on fake grassroots groups designed to confuse the public debate,
  • exposing Canada’s war on science and the scientists who are prevented from sharing critical information with the public.


Climate and energy debates have never been more important to setting the course for Canada's future. Yet conversations about Canada’s energy have never been more polarized, divisive and polluted with misinformation.

The stakes have never been higher.

Sun, 2014-08-24 18:09Steve Horn
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Koch-Tied Roots of Senator Vitter's Green Billionaires Club Environmental Attack Report

A DeSmogBlog investigation reveals that Kristina Moore, the Senate staffer listed as the author of U.S. Sen. David Vitter's (R-La.) “green billionaire's club” report published by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) on July 30, has career roots tracing back to the Koch Brothers' right-wing machine.

Metadata from Vitter's green billionaire's club report shows Moore's name as the author, though it remains unclear whether or not she authored it alone. Moore did not respond to a question about her authorship sent via email.

During a July 30 presentation of the report given to conservative transparency advocacy group Cause of Action, Vitter thanked Moore and several other staffers for their help putting together the 92-page document.

Moore — EPW's senior counsel for oversight and investigations — went to law school at George Mason University School of Law, graduating in 2007. David and Charles Koch both serve as major donors to George Mason University and also endow George Mason's Mercatus Center, where Charles sits on the Board of Directors

Kristina Moore Vitter
Kristina Moore; Photo Credit: Bertelsmann Foundation

While attending law school, Moore concurrently worked as chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), according to financial disclosure documents obtained by DeSmogBlog.

As a Davis staffer, Kristina Moore (then Kristina Husar), attended two Mercatus Center-sponsored retreats in 2006 and 2007, held in Richmond, Va. and Willamsburg, Va., respectively.

Tue, 2014-06-24 23:28Graham Readfearn
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The Millions Behind Bjorn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Center US Think Tank

Bjorn Lomborg

In early 2012, it seemed like the future of Bjørn Lomborg’s influential think tank was in serious doubt.

The Danish Government had changed its political stripes and the millions in public funds that had poured into his Copenhagen Consensus Center had come to an abrupt halt.

Lomborg told The Ecologist magazine he was worried there would be a limited pool of donors willing to part with cash to support his work.

“We have to make sure that that funding, if it’s going to go forward, is unassailable,” Lomborg said.

The impression back in 2012 might have been that Lomborg’s think tank was struggling for cash, but a DeSmogBlog investigation suggests the opposite.

The nonprofit Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) has spent almost $1 million on public relations since registering in the US in 2008. More than $4 million in grants and donations have flooded in since 2008, three quarters of which came in 2011 and 2012.

In one year alone, the Copenhagen Consensus Center paid Lomborg $775,000. 

Tue, 2014-06-03 18:00Steve Horn
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Days Before Obama Announced CO2 Rule, Exxon Awarded Gulf of Mexico Oil Leases

On Friday May 30, just a few days before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced details of its carbon rule proposal, the Obama Administration awarded offshore oil leases to ExxonMobil in an area of the Gulf of Mexico potentially containing over 172 million barrels of oil.

The U.S. Department of Interior's (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proclaimed in a May 30 press release that the ExxonMobil offshore oil lease is part of “President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production.” 

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell formerly worked as a petroleum engineer for Mobil, purchased as a wholly-owned subsidiary by Exxon in 1998.

Dubbed a “Private Empire” by investigative reporter Steve Coll, ExxonMobil will now have access to oil and gas in the Alaminos Canyon Area, located 170 miles east of Port Isabel, Texas. Port Isabel borders spring break and tourist hot spot South Padre Island.


Map Credit: U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

ExxonMobil originally won the three leases at the Western Planning Area Sale 233, held on March 19. BOEM records show ExxonMobil was the only company to participate in the bid and paid over $21.3 million.

Fri, 2014-05-30 09:51Graham Readfearn
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Richard Tol's Attack On 97 Percent Climate Change Consensus Study Has 'Critical Errors'

Professor Richard Tol

One of the most consistent of all the attacks from climate science sceptics and deniers is the one which tries to convince the public that expert scientists are divided on the causes of climate change.

Those attacks have come from ideologically motivated think tanks and the fossil fuel industry, often working together. Only last week, the Wall Street Journal published a polemic to try and mislead the public that a consensus does not exist.

In 1998, the American Petroleum Institute was developing a campaign with the explicit aim of convincing the public that “uncertainties” existed in the science of climate change and its causes.

In 2002, Republican pollster Frank Luntz wrote that: “Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly.”

Several studies have surveyed the views of climate science experts or the scientific literature and have come to the same conclusions — the number of studies and the number of scientists who reject the fact that humans are causing climate change remains vanishingly small.

The latest and most high profile study to survey the scientific literature was led by John Cook, of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute and founder of the Skeptical Science website, and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters in May 2013.

Cook et al analysed close to 12,000 global warming studies from 1991 to 2011 to see how many accepted or rejected the fact that human activities are causing climate change. The researchers also asked scientists themselves to look at their own papers and confirm whether they endorsed the scientific consensus.

The central finding, reported widely and even Tweeted by Barack Obama’s campaign team, was that 97 percent of the scientific papers on climate change found that humans were causing it.

Since that study was published, Professor Richard Tol, an economist from the University of Sussex, has been planning to attack Cook’s paper. 

Mon, 2014-05-19 12:47Julie Dermansky
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Photos of Superstorms and Extreme Events, Inspired by Years of Living Dangerously

The release of Showtime's “Years of Living Dangerously” series about climate change inspired me to edit a collection of my climate change related photographs. They include the aftermath of extreme storms and drought.

Although the United Nations has acknowledged the threat of climate change, as have President Obama and other leaders around the world, the fossil fuel industry forges ahead with business as usual, apparently without real concern for impending catastrophic change. 

Focusing on a wide range of issues, from the continued expansion of the fossil fuel industry to the destruction of forests, these photos serve as a warning call to the growing number of imminent disasters we face. 

“Years of Living Dangerously” episode six airs tonight at 8pm on Showtime. Brendan DeMelle, DeSmogBlog's Executive Director and Managing Editor, was interviewed by host America Ferrera for the segment airing tonight called “Against the Wind.” DeMelle and Center for Media and Democracy executive director Lisa Graves talk with Ferrera about the attacks on renewable energy by the climate denial group Heartland Institute.

You can watch episode one of the series for free here:

My photo slideshow is below.
  

Sun, 2014-04-27 07:00Justin Mikulka
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No Community is Prepared for Major Oil-By-Rail Accident, Senate Hearing Told

Just as you aren’t supposed to try to put out an oil fire in your kitchen with water, you aren’t supposed to try to put out a crude oil fire with water either. But in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, that is all firefighters had for the first two days of battling the catastrophic oil-by-rail fire last July.

The fire burned until 8,000 gallons of firefighting foam finally arrived from Toronto, an eight-hour drive away. Forty-seven people were killed in the accident.

This lack of foam not only makes the job of first responders impossible when fighting these crude oil fires — it also greatly increases the environmental damage. While the Lac-Megantic firefighters were using water, they were helping the oil flow into the nearby lake and river. One and a half million gallons of oil were spilled. 

At a recent Senate Appropriations hearing on oil-by-rail safety, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah Hersman was very clear about the state of preparedness in the United States when it comes to addressing accidents like the one in Lac-Megantic.

No community is prepared for a worst-case event,” Hersman said.

One of the main reasons no community is prepared for a worst-case oil-by-rail event is the loophole that exempts oil companies from needing comprehensive spill response plans in place. The NTSB has recommended this be changed, but regulators at the Department of Transportation aren’t moving to do so.

Communities are especially vulnerable to oil-by-rail accidents because they have not been trained to fight crude oil fires and, even if they had been, they don’t have the necessary foam. 

Mon, 2014-04-21 14:14Julie Dermansky
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Four Years After the BP Oil Disaster, A Look Back in Photographs

Just prior to the four-year anniversary of the BP oil spill, BP and the Coast Guard issued press releases. BP announced the  “active cleanup” in Louisiana is over, while the Coast Guard stated the clean up response is far from over.  “We are absolutely committed to continuing the clean-up of Deepwater Horizon oil along the Gulf - for as long as it takes,” Coast Guard Capt. Thomas Sparks wrote. 

The Washington Post reported on the “dueling press releases.”  But Geoff Morrell, BP Senior Vice President for US Communications & External Affairs, told DeSmogBlog,  

“We have never suggested the work of the U.S. Coast Guard or BP is over. Our announcement Tuesday merely highlighted the end of active clean up of the Gulf shoreline. We believe that is a very significant achievement that resulted from four years of sustained work with the USCG. However, that accomplishment has not in any way diminished our commitment to the Gulf. To the contrary, we will continue to work with the USCG, primarily in responding to reports of any residual Macondo oil and taking action where removal is required.”

BP's claim that it would  “make things right” still echoes from its advertising campaign. But scaling back clean-up operations means the burden of oil sighting reports will fall more on the public. The Gulf Restoration Network, a nonprofit environmental group, is dismayed. GRN spokesman Raleigh Hoke told the Washington Post,  “It’s clearly premature to end the active cleanup.” 

Plaquemines Parish Coastal Zone Director P. J. Hahn, who continues to monitor the effects of the BP spill, pointed out last year that oil sightings come from fishermen and environmental groups more often than from the Coast Guard or BP.

Hahn has led a crusade to save two barrier islands that were bird rookeries before the spill. For the first two years after the spill, the birds returned, but by 2013 the birds had almost nowhere left to nest and abandoned the islands.  

The oil that hit the island killed the roots of marsh grass and mangrove trees that held the islands together, speeding up coastal erosion that was already eating away at the islands.

By now, the islands have all but disappeared.  No birds were found on the two islands this year that have all but disappeared. Instead Hahn and reporter Bob Marshall found some birds nesting on another barrier island nearby in a rookery that is not nearly as large as the ones that Hahn still hopes to restore. 

How prepared are oil companies and the Coast Guard for spills?

DeSmogBlog put that question to Dr. Riki Ott, a marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor who has been monitoring the Valdez oil spill. Ott says, “We are less prepared now to respond to an oil spill than we were 25 years ago.”

Mon, 2014-04-07 15:26Brendan DeMelle
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Years of Living Dangerously: Watch the Most Important Premiere of 2014 Right Now

Looking for something inspiring to watch tonight instead of Game of Thrones? Check out this sneak peak of Years of Living Dangerously, which will premiere on Showtime on Sunday, April 13 at 10pm. Years Of Living Dangerously is a 9-part series produced by James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Weintraub along with former 60 Minutes producers who have 18 Emmys between them. Showtime and the producers were gracious enough to provide the first episode in full on YouTube.  

Once you see it, I bet you'll want to sign up for Showtime to see the rest of the series this spring. (Yes, it's on Showtime which not many households or establishments subscribe to. But wouldn't you like to support the network that hosts such an important series about climate change?)

Watch the first episode of Years of Living Dangerously in full below:

Pretty awesome, right? Sign up at Showtime.com so you don't miss future episodes, including one about the attacks on renewable energy that I was interviewed by America Ferrera for, airing in May. 

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