Friday, March 24, 2017 - 03:57 • Steve Horn
Person holding biochar in hand

After years of investigating biochar, which promoters have touted as a potential climate change fix, DeSmog is releasing its findings on the science, claims, and controversy surrounding this approach to sequestering carbon. 

Biochar is the product of plant or animal products (biomass) undergoing pyrolysis, a high-heat chemical reaction, to convert the carbon-containing biomass to a stable, non-decomposing form of charcoal. Introduced to mainstream audiences in a Time Magazine article from December 2008, biochar as a climate geoengineering technology has hit a number of peaks and valleys since then. In that time, its best chances at reaching commercial scales so far have failed, according to a new DeSmog report, Biochar: Climate Change Solution or False Hope?

Biochar's failure to date is due to a number of reasons, such as the lack of scientific consensus surrounding its ability to sequester carbon indefinitely, the vast amounts of land needed to produce biochar at a large enough scale to affect the climate, and the lack of legislative or regulatory frameworks required for investment in commercial-level production. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 - 14:05 • Guest
Sign at a rally showing "I heart science"
Sign at a rally showing "I heart science"

This is a guest post by Dave Anderson, cross-posted from Energy and Policy Institute 

A senior energy official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently warned that there will be “hell to pay” if the Trump administration tries to rescind the EPA’s science-based endangerment finding for greenhouse gas emissions.  

In typical U.S. Chamber fashion, Christopher Guith dismissed current concerns about climate change as based on “religion” — not “scientific facts” — while speaking at a January 26th event in the coal state of Kentucky. Guith is the senior vice president for policy at the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.

Monday, February 20, 2017 - 21:24 • Guest

By Kert Davies and David Halperin

Any analysis of Russiagate, and the fateful phone calls between Michael Flynn and Russia’s ambassador to the United States, must address the critical fact that U.S. sanctions on Russia are severely damaging Vladimir Putin’s economic power. In particular, these sanctions – imposed by Barack Obama, supported by Hillary Clinton, and repeatedly questioned by Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson – are blocking a lucrative long-term oil agreement between Russia and ExxonMobil, a deal whose value is underscored by a little-noticed 1988 declassified CIA document.

Monday, February 20, 2017 - 14:49 • Steve Horn
Construction of Keystone XL pipeline
Construction of Keystone XL pipeline

TransCanada has wasted no time since President Donald Trump signed a January 24 executive order calling for U.S. federal agencies to permit construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. 

The Calgary-based company has already re-applied for a presidential permit through the U.S. Department of State to cross the U.S.-Canada border with the pipeline and has also applied in Nebraska to build the line across that state. It also has registered to lobby the federal government, deploying lobbyist and former GOP Congressional staffer Jay Cranford of the CGCN Group, for the job.

As DeSmog has previously reported, fellow CGCN Group lobbyist Mike Catanzaro is the presumed choice for top energy adviser to President Trump. Catanzaro has a track record as a climate change denier and has lobbied for companies such as Devon Energy, America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), and others.

Sunday, February 19, 2017 - 04:58 • Steve Horn
Pipes stamped with 'Made in Canada'
Pipes stamped with 'Made in Canada'

At his February 16 press conference, President Donald Trump discussed his executive orders calling for U.S. federal agencies to grant TransCanada and Energy Transfer Partners the permits needed to build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects.

Trump also cited a different executive order signed that same day, highlighting the “Buy American measures” which he said were “in place to require American steel for American pipelines.” But like Keystone XL, as DeSmog previously reported, much of the steel for the Dakota Access project appears to have been manufactured in Canada by Evraz North America, a subsidiary of the Russian steel giant Evraz.

Evraz is owned in part by Roman Abramovich, a Russian multi-billionaire credited for bringing Russian President Vladimir Putin into office in the late 1990s. DeSmog's finding comes on the heels of Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigning for potentially having discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Russian diplomats before Trump took office, apparently without the knowledge of Trump or now-Vice President Mike Pence.

Saturday, February 18, 2017 - 04:58 • Guest
Exxon gas station sign
Exxon gas station sign

Prior to President Donald Trump taking office, there was a push to require oil and gas companies to inform their investors about the risks of climate change. As governments step up efforts to regulate carbon emissions, the thinking goes, fossil fuel companies’ assets could depreciate in value over time.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, for example, was probing how ExxonMobil discloses the impact of that risk on the value of its reserves. And disclosure advocates have been pressing the agency to take more decisive action.

Now that Republicans control Congress and the White House, will the SEC reverse course? And should it?

Friday, February 17, 2017 - 03:58 • Steve Horn
Oil train cars sitting on rail tracks
Oil train cars sitting on rail tracks

In response to the ongoing battle over the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines, the oil industry and the groups it funds have started a new refrain: transporting crude oil through pipelines is safer than by “dangerous” rail.

It's a talking point wedded to the incidents over the past several years which have seen mile-long oil trains derail and even explode, beginning with the 2013 Lac-Megantic oil-by-rail disaster in Quebec, which killed 47 people. These trains were carrying oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin. Bakken crude may be more flammable than other crude oils and is the same oil which would travel through the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), owned by Energy Transfer Partners.

What goes unsaid, however, is that the Dakota Access pipeline actually connects to an oil-by-rail hub, also owned by Energy Transfer Partners, in Patoka, Illinois. Patoka is the end point of this pipeline, where it links to both the rail hub and the Energy Transfer Crude Oil Pipeline Project (ETCOP).

Thursday, February 16, 2017 - 15:19 • Steve Horn

President Donald Trump's pick to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, will be forced to hand over more than 3,000 emails to the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), a watchdog group, after a district judge ordered their release.

EnergyWire has reported the state's Attorney General's Office has until Tuesday, February 21 to turn over the emails that had been sitting in a queue for two years after an initial open records request from CMD.

Those documents have been a rallying point for U.S. Senate Democrats who oppose the climate science denier Pruitt, who will likely receive a Senate confirmation vote tomorrow.

The request from CMD sought documents that could shed even more light on the connections between Pruitt's Attorney General Office and the oil, gas and coal industries.

Thursday, February 16, 2017 - 13:10 • Alex Kotch
EPA building in DC
EPA building in DC

On Feb. 3, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz turned heads when he introduced a bill to “completely abolish” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

Today, the American people are drowning in rules and regulations promulgated by unelected bureaucrats,” Gaetz told fellow GOP lawmakers in an email reported by the Huffington Post, “and the Environmental Protection Agency has become an extraordinary offender.”

Rep. Gaetz’s bill came the day after a Senate committee voted in favor of confirming Scott Pruitt, the fossil fuel-friendly attorney general of Oklahoma who has sued the EPA 14 times, to head the agency.

And like Pruitt, Rep. Gaetz and his three fellow sponsors of H.R. 861 have all benefited from campaign donations from oil, gas, and coal companies and large electric utilities. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 - 19:02 • Steve Horn

The day after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers gave the owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) the final permit it needed to build its line across Lake Oahe, which connects to the Missouri River, a natural gas liquids pipeline owned by one of the DAPL co-owners exploded and erupted in flames in Paradis, Louisiana.  Paradis is located 22 miles away from New Orleans.

That line, the VP Pipeline/EP Pipeline, was purchased from Chevron in August 2016 by DAPL co-owner Phillips 66. One employee of Phillips 66 is presumed dead as a result of the explosion and two were injured.

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