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Labor Helps Obama Energy Secretary Push and Profit from 'Net Zero' Fossil Fuels

Read time: 16 mins
President Obama and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz

Progressive activists have called for a Green New Deal, a linking of the U.S. climate and labor movements to create an equitable and decarbonized economy and move away from fossil fuels to address the climate crisis. But major labor unions and President Barack Obama’s Energy Secretary have far different plans.

On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the AFL-CIO and the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI) — a nonprofit founded and run by former Obama Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz — launched the Labor Energy Partnership. Unlike those calling for a Green New Deal, though, this alliance supports increased fracking for oil and gas, as well as other controversial technologies that critics say prop up fossil fuels. It's also an agenda matching a number of the former Energy Secretary's personal financial investments.

Climate Emissions From Gulf Coast’s New Petrochemical, Oil and Gas Projects Same as 29 New Coal Power Plants

Read time: 5 mins
Petrochemical plant in the Houston Ship Canal

In the last six years, officials in Texas and Louisiana issued permits allowing 74 petrochemical, oil, and gas projects to pump as much climate-warming pollution into the atmosphere as running 29 coal-fired power plants around the clock, according to numbers released September 26 by the nonprofit watchdog Environmental Integrity Project.

And construction appears to be speeding up, with over 40 percent of those projects permitted between 2016 and mid-2018. The 31 most recent projects combined will add 50 million tons of greenhouse gases — equal to 11 new coal-fired power plants — to the world’s atmosphere in a year, the watchdog adds.

Declining Oil and Rise in Renewables Opens Up Possibility for North Sea Transition

Read time: 5 mins

Record-breaking offshore developments and decommissioning infrastructure have sent strong signals that the North Sea is getting ready for a genuine transition away from fossil fuels.

This week saw Shetland port Dales Voe named as the best ultra deep-water port for decommissioning oil rigs and other large infrastructure projects by accountants Ernst and Young. Operated by Lerwick Port Authority, Dales Voe was previously extended to allow defunct oil rigs to be moved for dismantling.

Statoil Drops 'Oil' From its Name, But Not its Business Model

Read time: 4 mins
Statoil oil rig

Norwegian energy giant Statoil has announced it is rebranding to ‘Equinor’, a new name the firm states is inspired by “words like equal, equality and equilibrium”, as well as “Nor” for Norway.

But is this just an exercise in greenwashing? Just how fair and equitable is the company’s strategy?

After all, Statoil remains, at heart, a fossil fuel company.

Trump Eyes Arctic Wildlife Refuge for Oil Drilling, Alarming Gwich’in

Read time: 7 mins
ANWR oil and gas caribou trump

In the remote north-eastern corner of Alaska, just under 20-million acres have been set aside as a federal protected area since 1960. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has recently come under threat, however, with President Donald Trump’s Department of the Interior proposing lifting restrictions on seismic exploration.

Dirty Energy Giants Censured for Claiming Natural Gas Is 'Cleanest' Fossil Fuel

Read time: 4 mins
Exxon gas station

For many years, a standard talking point from the fossil fuel industry and those who speak on the industry’s behalf has been that natural gas is a cleaner alternative to conventional energy sources like coal and oil. This talking point is at least partially responsible for many people — including former President Barack Obama and his Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz — believing that natural gas can act as a “bridge fuel” in the eventual shift from coal and oil to renewable sources of energy.

But the truth is a lot more complicated than a talking point, something which a Dutch advertising watchdog has recognized as it takes two fossil fuel companies to task over misleading ads about natural gas being the “cleanest of all fossil fuels.”

This Is the Drilling Method for Most US Oil But Regulators Offer Almost No Oversight

Read time: 8 mins
Oil pump jacks drilling in California

Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and offshore drilling garner a lot of news headlines when it comes to oil and gas issues in America, but they're far from the only game in town, with those two drilling techniques not even constituting the majority of U.S. oil and gas production.

For that, look to enhanced oil recovery (EOR), an under-regulated drilling method that has been around for over a century and could be threatening drinking water sources — if only regulators and the public had enough information to determine that danger, according to a new 63 page report published this week. Environmental group Clean Water Action, with graduate students from Johns Hopkins University, plumbed the academic and professional literature on EOR and its associated regulatory issues in order to lay out the potential environmental and public health risks posed by EOR. They also detail how the drilling method came to be handled with such a light touch by regulators at both the state and federal level.

The report details that the almost non-existent regulatory treatment for EOR, which makes up 60 percent of U.S. oil and gas production, may be further watered down due to proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) budget cuts by the Trump administration. In addition, oil, gas, and coal companies are pushing for two Senate bills offering tax incentives for this drilling technique which cast it as a supposed climate change solution.

Fossil Fuel Industry Steps in to Help Save Paris Climate Deal for All the Wrong Reasons

Read time: 3 mins
Money clenched in a person's hand

In May of 2016, six months before the U.S. presidential election, then-candidate Donald Trump said that he would “cancel” the United States’ involvement in the Paris climate accord. Immediately following his election, however, Trump appeared to back-track slightly, saying he had “an open mind” about the agreement. And just this week, his administration canceled a much-hyped meeting to discuss the deal’s future in the U.S.

The back and forth from the administration likely stems from the fact that officials within it are split, with people like senior adviser Stephen Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt urging the president to withdraw from the deal, and people like Secretary of State Rex Tillerson saying that the U.S. should remain in it.

Pressure to stay in the Paris agreement isn’t just coming from members of the White House, either. Polls show that 71 percent of the American public supports the deal, so pulling out would prove to be highly unpopular with American voters. But another faction is begging the president to keep the deal in place: American businesses and fossil fuel companies.

Congressional Energy and Climate Committees Are Loaded with Ex-Fossil Fuel Lobbyists

Read time: 8 mins
U.S. Capitol building

Though the U.S. Congress has been in session for two months, much of the policy action which has taken place since Donald Trump assumed the presidency on January 20 has centered around his Executive Orders.

As some have pointed out, Trump's first speech in front of a joint session of Congress on February 28 can be seen as a reset moment, with the clock ticking on Republicans to deliver on promises made to voters in the 2016 election. In the energy and environment sphere, those efforts will likely center around gutting climate and environmental protections, and much of it will be carried out by congressional committee staffers. 

A DeSmog investigation has revealed that many Republican staff members on key committees are former fossil fuel industry lobbyists, which could help fast-track the industry's legislative agenda in the weeks and months ahead. In total, 15 staffers on the eight main energy and environment congressional committees previously worked as industry lobbyists on behalf of oil, gas, mining, coal, petrochemical, and electric utility interests. 

Behind Trump’s Push for "American Steel" in Pipelines, Another Russian Company with Putin Ties Stands to Benefit

Read time: 8 mins

In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last week, President Donald Trump commemorated the one-month anniversary of his executive orders calling for the approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, as well as one calling for U.S. pipelines to get their line pipe steel from U.S. facilities.

“I said, who makes the pipes for the pipeline?” Trump told the CPAC crowd. “If they want a pipeline in the United States, they're going to use pipe that's made in the United States, do we agree?”

But while the pipe may be made in the U.S., as DeSmog has shown in previous investigations, ownership tells a different story. Enter: TMK IPSCO, a massive producer of steel for U.S. oil country tubular goods (OCTG) and line pipe, and a subsidiary of TMK Group. A DeSmog investigation has found ties between TMK Group's Board of Directors and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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