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A Flaring Shame: Obama Could Close Gas Flaring Loophole, But Will He?

This is a guest post by Lukas Ross from Friends of the Earth

Big Oil has been subsidized to the hilt for over a hundred years. In the U.S. the spoils include everything from special interest tax breaks and accounting gimmicks to royalty-free leasing and government sponsored R&D. Add them all together and every year the costs run into the billions.

But one subsidy never seems to make the list, which is a shame because it is hardly small and incredibly polluting. What is it? Royalty-free flaring on public and tribal lands is a giant loophole that President Obama has the power to close before he leaves office.

North Carolina Settles With Duke Energy Over Coal Ash Groundwater Contamination, Ratepayers May Shoulder Costs

Rhiannon Fionn

This is a guest post by Rhiannon Fionn, an independent investigative journalist and filmmaker in post-production on the documentary film “Coal Ash Chronicles.” 

North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality today announced a settlement agreement with Duke Energy, ending a lawsuit over the department’s $25.1 million fine for groundwater contamination resulting from coal ash stored at the company’s Sutton plant near Wilmington, N.C. Although the settlement covers groundwater contamination at 14 of Duke’s coal ash facilities and requires accelerated cleanup of groundwater contamination at four sites, activists and residents I spoke with today were not impressed by the announcement.

Since a judge approved the settlement, there will be no opportunity for public comment.

I am again disappointed with the department, but not terribly surprised,” said Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins. “This is an impressive new low,” he added. “They put a proposed fine out there, but they’ve not only reduced it, they diluted it to 14 sites.”

Edelman Wins Cautious Praise For Ditching Climate Denier and Coal Clients

This is a guest post by Dan Zegart from the Climate Investigations Center.

The world's largest public relations firm said today it will no longer represent coal producers or climate change deniers.

Edelman's change of direction was reported today in a story in the Guardian newspaper that was based on a leaked internal email.

The email revealed that the company concluded a two-year long ethical review process by deciding to ban coal companies and deniers — including front groups that espouse climate denial on behalf of companies or other interests — but will continue to work for oil and gas firms and the rest of the fossil fuel industry.

On climate denial and coal those are where we just said this is absolutely a no-go area,” Michael Stewart, the president and chief executive for Europe, who led the review, told the Guardian.

Greenwashing, fake front groups, anything like that is completely inappropriate,” Stewart continued.

How Fracking Changed the Economics of Oil Production Around the World

James Meadway, chief economist at the New Economics Foundation, explains the interrelated economics behind China’s 'Black Monday' stock market crash, Middle Eastern oil and US fracking.

The 'fracking revolution' has transformed the economics of oil production globally, with the US becoming a bigger producer than Saudi Arabia and – after decades of dependency on oil imports – even being able to export some of its surplus production.

US shale oil is unusual, too, in being privately owned: most of the world’s oil reserves (over 70 percent) are in state hands. Like the North Sea 30 years ago, in a world dominated by state-owned companies and publicly owned reserves, US shale could look like a new frontier for private operators on the search for fat profits.

EU Ombudsman Investigating Industry-Dominated Fracking Expert Group

The European Ombudsman has opened a case into the European Commission's industry-dominated Expert Group on the risky and dangerous practice of fracking for natural gas.

The Ombudsman, responsible for investigating complaints about maladministration in EU institutions and bodies, is looking into allegations that the Commission “wrongly allowed members associated with the shale gas industry to act as chairmen of the European Science and Technology Network on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Extraction.”

Despite massive public opposition to fracking, the Commission established the European Science and Technology Network on Unconventional Hydrocarbon Extraction last July with a mandate to recommend the most appropriate fracking techniques and technologies for Europe.

David Suzuki: Climate Deniers All Over the Map

This is a guest post by David Suzuki.

A little over a year ago, I wrote about a Heartland Institute conference in Las Vegas where climate change deniers engaged in a failed attempt to poke holes in the massive body of scientific evidence for human-caused climate change. I quoted Bloomberg News: “Heartland's strategy seemed to be to throw many theories at the wall and see what stuck.”

A recent study came to a similar conclusion about contrarian “scientific” efforts to do the same. “Learning from mistakes in climate research,” published in Theoretical and Applied Climatology, examined some of the tiny percentage of scientific papers that reject anthropogenic climate change, attempting to replicate their results.

In a Guardian article, co-author Dana Nuccitelli said their study found “no cohesive, consistent alternative theory to human-caused global warming.” Instead, “Some blame global warming on the sun, others on orbital cycles of other planets, others on ocean cycles, and so on.”

On 10th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina Former New Orleans Resident Questions African-American Leaders Siding With Climate Deniers

c Julie Dermansky

This is a guest post by Evlondo Cooper, senior fellow with the Checks and Balances Project, cross-posted with permission. 

New Orleans has many nicknames: The Crescent City, The Birthplace of Jazz, and The Big Easy. It’s also my hometown but Hurricane Katrina cast me out. In 2005, I was an investigator for the New Orleans district attorney’s office who was invested in making a great city even better. Along with hundreds of thousands of others, I had to flee New Orleans.

This month is the 10-year anniversary of Katrina and its devastating punch, which we now know was made far worse by pollution-driven climate change. I juxtapose its devastation with the potential solutions as this month marks the release of President Obama’s signature Clean Power Plan, which would cut the very pollution that made Katrina so much worse.

100 Days Before The UN Climate Talks – Reasons To Be Cheerful. And Reasons Not To

This article by Alice Bell, writer and researcher on science, technology and the environment, has been reposted from The Road to Paris.

It’s less than 100 days before the big UN climate talks in Paris. How does that feel? Concerned, excited, or just a bit meh?

Are we kneeling at the seat of history? Are we finally about to save the planet? Or is it all the same business as usual which we know is already hurtling us to six degree warming? Here’s four reasons to feel good about the Paris climate talks, and four reasons for concern.

Big Oil Can Survive Low Prices, The Climate Can’t

This is a guest post by Lukas Ross from Friends of the Earth.

Last week seemed like a bad time to be Big Oil.

As the world’s biggest energy companies announced their quarterly results, billions in profits still managed to disappoint shareholders. ExxonMobil and Chevron both missed their targets, Shell prepared for steep spending cuts, and BP took a well-deserved hosing on news of its latest Deepwater Horizon penalty.

The price of crude, half of what it was a year ago, definitely made for some lower numbers. But does bad news for the oil industry mean good news for the climate? Absolutely not.

How Shell Lobbied to Stop EU Renewable Energy Targets

This has been cross-posted from Energydesk.

A group of the EU’s largest energy companies – including oil and gas giants Shell and Norway’s Statoil – formed an alliance to lobby against a new EU renewable target according to documents seen by Energydesk.

The lobbying group may surprise few, but comes after it was revealed that Shell started lobbying the EU two years earlier for a policy which favoured gas over renewables, claiming “Gas is good for Europe”.

That claim, however, came before the Ukraine crisis raised concerns about gas supply in EU countries.