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Thu, 2015-01-15 12:03Justin Mikulka
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Oil-by-Rail Reality: Watch What Industry Does, Not What They Say

In the past month, there have been numerous public relations efforts suggesting that much is being done to improve oil by rail safety. Unfortunately, it seems these efforts will not involve much more than press releases and hollow promises.”

Those words were first published on DeSmogBlog in March of last year in an article titled Why Nothing Will Happen On Oil by Rail Safety.

In that article, one particular public relations effort was highlighted:

“One of the more popular talking points in the recent PR effort was that BNSF, the railroad that is the largest transporter of oil by rail, had volunteered to buy 5,000 new rail tank cars that exceed any existing safety standard.”

This statement was referring to articles such as the one in the Wall Street Journal last February stating, “BNSF Railway said it plans to buy as many as 5,000 new tank cars to transport crude oil, an unusual move that marks the latest effort by the rail industry to improve safety after a spate of accidents.” Similar articles appeared in Reuters (“Exclusive: BNSF to move into tank car ownership with safer oil fleet”) and CNBC.

It was a clear message. The rail industry was not waiting on new regulations to improve safety and would take steps immediately to make the movement of oil by rail safer. Tough to argue with that, right?

Except it was nothing more than a public relations campaign.

Tue, 2015-01-06 04:00Mike Gaworecki
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California Governor Proposes Most Ambitious Renewable Energy Target In U.S.

California Governor Jerry Brown used the occasion of his fourth inaugural address to propose an ambitious new clean energy target for the state: 50% renewable energy by 2030.

“We are at a crossroads,” Brown said in announcing the proposal, according to Climate Progress. “The challenge is to build for the future, not steal from it, to live within our means and to keep California ever golden and creative.”

Already the leader in installed solar capacity and third when it comes to wind power, the Golden State had previously adopted a Renewable Portfolio Standard mandate to procure 33% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, a goal it was easily on pace to meet.

Environmentalists were quick to applaud Governor Brown’s 50% by 2030 proposal, which would give California the most ambitious renewable energy target of any US state, eclipsing Hawaii’s 40% by 2030 target.

But given the current growth rate of California’s renewable sector, even 50% by 2030 might not end up being that ambitious, according to Abigail Dillen, Vice President of Climate and Energy for Earthjustice.

Wed, 2014-12-24 15:00Julie Dermansky
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Christmas Parade in the Shadow of an Oil Refinery

The city of Norco, Louisiana, 25 miles from New Orleans, held its annual Christmas parade on December 7th. It is situated on the east bank of the Mississippi River, along the stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans that is known to some as “The Petrochemical Corridor” and to others as “Cancer Alley.”

The parade departed from River Road after Santa Claus arrived via helicopter, landing on the levee. A crowd lined Main Street to watch the parade and collect plastic beads and toys thrown from the floats and marchers passing by.

The parade’s backdrop, Shell’s chemical plant and Motiva’s refinery, was a reminder of our relationship to fossil fuels.

Those who live in communities like Norco may benefit from a new rule the Environmental Protection Agency will release in April 2015 in accordance with a consent decree approved by a federal judge earlier this year.

Implementation of the proposed rule “will result in project reductions of 1.760 tons per year of hazardous air pollutants, which will reduce cancer risk and chronic health effects,” according to the EPA.

Here are photos of the parade and a holiday video shot in Norco last year. 

Tue, 2014-12-09 06:46Carol Linnitt
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Shell’s Top Climate Advisor Says Company “Values” Relationship with Climate-Denying ALEC at COP20

David Hone, Shell’s top climate advisor told an audience at the COP20 climate negotiations underway in Lima, Peru today that the company enjoys its relationship with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a contentious corporate ‘bill mill’ known for its climate change denial and aggressive efforts to counteract emissions reductions and regulations.

More than 90 companies have parted ways with ALEC since 2012, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, after ALEC’s contentious position on climate science drew the ire of shareholders, citizen groups and unions.

Perhaps most famously, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt accused ALEC of “literally lying” about climate science and publicly announced the company’s decision to forego renewing its ALEC membership. The decision prompted a ‘tech exodus’ from ALEC which saw companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Yelp, Yahoo!, and AOL cut ties with the free market group.

Tue, 2014-12-02 19:54Graham Readfearn
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Coal Giant Peabody Energy Denies Social Media Poverty Campaign Is Bogus

On the fringes of Brisbane’s G20 summit inside the Queensland capital’s grand city hall, Peabody Energy president Glenn Kellow made a remarkable claim.

Almost half a million people in countries across the globe had supported his coal company’s PR campaign to urge the world to act on “energy poverty”, claimed Kellow. 

Kellow was referring to the company’s “Lights On” project run under his firm’s Advanced Energy for Life (AEfL) campaign.

The AEfL campaign was created with the help of Burson-Marsteller, one of the world’s biggest PR firms and a specialist in crisis communications. 

In a press release, Peabody Energy again claimed about “half-million citizens from 48 nations” had “urged G20 leaders” to have a greater focus on energy poverty through its campaign. 

Peabody Energy, the world's biggest privately owned coal company, has been the leading voice in the coal industry’s attempts to hijack the term “energy poverty” for its own ends.

Wed, 2014-11-19 21:05Steve Horn
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Introducing "Natural Gas Exports: Washington's Revolving Door Fuels Climate Threat"

DeSmogBlog's Steve Horn and Republic Report's Lee Fang have co-written an in-depth report on the influence the government-industry revolving door has had on Big Oil's ability to obtain four liquefied natural gas (LNG) export permits since 2012 from the Obama Administration.

Titled “Natural Gas Exports: Washington's Revolving Door Fuels Climate Threat,” the report published here on DeSmogBlog and on Republic Report serves as the launching pad of an ongoing investigation. It will act as the prelude of an extensive series of articles by both websites uncovering the LNG exports influence peddling machine. 

The report not only exposes the lobbying apparatus that has successfully opened the door for LNG exports, but also the PR professionals paid to sell them to the U.S. public. It also exposes those who have gone through the “reverse revolving door,” moving from industry back to government and sometimes back again.

It reveals that many former Obama Administration officials now work as lobbyists or PR professionals on behalf of the LNG exports industry, as do many former Bush Administration officials. So too do those with ties to potential 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. 

They include:

Tue, 2014-11-11 10:00Mike Gaworecki
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Peabody Energy Goes On Offense With New PR Campaign Designed To Sell Same Old Dirty Coal

Despite what you may have heard about the death of the coal industry, Peabody Energy is ramping up mining activities and going on the offensive, pushing “clean coal” on the world’s poor with a disingenuous but aggressive PR campaign. And for good reason: Peabody has got to sell the coal from the world's largest coal mine to someone.

Speculation is rife that the new GOP-led Senate will join with its similarly fossil fuel-beholden House colleagues to usher in a new era of coal. Peabody, the world’s largest privately held coal company, isn’t waiting around to find out.

The company has teamed with public relations firm Burson-Marsteller—the notorious PR giant that helped Big Tobacco attack and distort scientific evidence of the dangers of smoking tobacco—to launch Advanced Energy for Life, a desperate attempt to shift the discussion around coal away from its deleterious effects on health and massive contributions to climate change and instead posit the fossil fuel as a solution to global poverty.

The aim of this PR offensive, according to a piece by freelance journalist Dan Zegart and former DeSmog managing editor Kevin Grandia (one of Rolling Stone’s “Green Heroes,” and deservedly so), the reason for Peabody’s charm offensive is simple: there’s money to be made selling coal in Asian markets, and Peabody aims to make it—as long as initiatives to combat global warming emissions don’t intervene. Which makes Burson-Marsteller the perfect ally:

Burson-Marsteller, which has a long history of creating front groups to rehabilitate the images of corporate wrongdoers, helped Philip Morris, maker of Marlboro, tackle the Asian market, where Burson fought anti-smoking regulations and developed crisis drills for Philip Morris personnel in Hong Kong on how to handle adverse scientific reports.
 

As the US produces a glut of cheap natural gas, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan seeks to set emissions standards that would make building new coal-fired power plants all but impossible impossible, and the domestic demand for coal drops, Peabody’s value as a company has dropped as well, from $20 billion to just $3.7 billion in the space of three years. The company is in desperate need of new business if it’s to even stay afloat.

Thu, 2014-10-30 17:00Chris Rose
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World’s Major Banks Poured Over $80 Billion into Coal Last Year Alone

At least $83 billion USD in financing was provided to 65 coal mining and energy companies last year by 92 of the world’s leading commercial banks, according to a Dutch report published Wednesday.

Leading banks provided $500 billion in financing for the coal industry through 2,283 lending and underwriting transactions between 2005 and April 2014, said the report Banking on Coal 2014, which was released by BankTrack in Nijmegen.

The top 20 financiers provided 73 per cent of this amount alone, added the report, released just days ahead of the publication of the fifth United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment.

The report said JPMorgan Chase was the top financier between 2005 and this year, lending more than $27 billion, while Citi, in second place, lent $25.8 billion and third-place RBS provided $22.9 billion to coal-related borrowing.

Bank finance for coal is increasing rapidly, the report said, adding 2013 was a record year for coal finance, with commercial banks providing more than $88 billion to the main 65 coal companies – over four times the amount provided in 2005.

Mon, 2014-10-27 22:59Kevin Grandia
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Video Mash Up Shows Climate Denial Streak in Republican Midterm Candidates

At town halls and candidate debates across the country, Republican and Democratic election hopefuls are being asked where they stand on the important issue of climate change. Many of their answers have been recorded for posterity.

A new video short produced by Republic Report's Lee Fang shows just how off-side Republican candidates are in this midterm election cycle when it comes to the overwhelming scientific evidence that human behaviour is to blame for the current climate and atmospheric disruption we are experiencing. 

Lee told me earlier today that he would have liked to have balanced the story a bit by finding Democratic candidates who also deny the basic science behind climate change, but he was unable to unearth any such footage.

Watch it:

H/T to Huffington Post Politics.

Fri, 2014-10-17 11:52Mike Gaworecki
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NASA Confirms A 2,500-Square-Mile Cloud Of Methane Floating Over US Southwest

When NASA researchers first saw data indicating a massive cloud of methane floating over the American Southwest, they found it so incredible that they dismissed it as an instrument error.

But as they continued analyzing data from the European Space Agency’s Scanning Imaging Absorption Spectrometer for Atmospheric Chartography instrument from 2002 to 2012, the “atmospheric hot spot” kept appearing.

The team at NASA was finally able to take a closer look, and have now concluded that there is in fact a 2,500-square-mile cloud of methane—roughly the size of Delaware—floating over the Four Corners region, where the borders of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah all intersect.

A report published by the NASA researchers in the journal Geophysical Research Letters concludes that “the source is likely from established gas, coal, and coalbed methane mining and processing.” Indeed, the hot spot happens to be above New Mexico's San Juan Basin, the most productive coalbed methane basin in North America.

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