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Delaware Just Sued 30 Fossil Fuel Companies and the American Petroleum Institute Over Climate ‘Denial and Disinformation’

Delaware Just Sued 30 Fossil Fuel Companies and the American Petroleum Institute Over Climate ‘Denial and Disinformation’

Flood damage from Hurricane Irene at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware.

Delaware, the home state of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, announced on Thursday, September 10 that it is taking dozens of major oil and gas companies including BP, Chevron, and ExxonMobil to court over the rising costs of climate impacts such as sea level rise and coastal flooding.

Like other U.S. states and municipalities suing the fossil fuel industry, Delaware says that the industry knew half a century ago about the likely climate impacts resulting from the use of its products, but instead of warning the public or changing their business model, the fossil fuel companies engaged in campaigns to attack climate science and downplay the risks of burning coal, oil, and gas in order to stave off policy responses.

Delawareans are already paying for the malfeasance of the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies,” Attorney General Kathy Jennings said in a press release. “Exxon, Chevron, and other mega-corporations knew exactly what kind of sacrifices the world would make to support their profits, and they deceived the public for decades. Now we are staring down a crisis at our shores, and taxpayers are once again footing the bill for damage to our roads, our beaches, our environment, and our economy. We are seeking accountability from some of the world’s most powerful businesses to pay for the mess they’ve made.”

The lawsuit, filed September 10 in Delaware Superior Court, a state court, seeks monetary damages to help pay for costs the state is already incurring and that are expected to mount as climate impacts worsen.

As noted in Delaware’s complaint, the state has the lowest average elevation of any state in the country and more than 22,000 residents are currently threatened by coastal flooding.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What Kenney Had to Kill to Embrace Coal

What Kenney Had to Kill to Embrace Coal

Alberta’s 1976 Coal Policy protected vital drinking water supplies for much of the province. That’s gone now.

kenney-main-coal.jpg
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. His government, after being heavily lobbied by coal interests, opted to open a huge swath of sensitive Rocky Mountains land to open pit mining, rendering longstanding protections ‘obsolete.’ Photo by Jason Franson, the Canadian Press.

Under the cover of a pandemic, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quietly wiped away a near half-century of safeguards against open pit coal mining in most of the province’s Rocky Mountains and foothills.

The result could be the stripping away of mountain tops across more than a million and half hectares of terrain — about half the size of Vancouver Island.

Gone, as of last May, is the province’s 1976 Coal Policy, which protected the headwaters of rivers that secure drinking water for Canadians across the prairies.

The Coal Policy was established by the Progressive Conservative government then led by Peter Lougheed, based on nearly six years of active public consultations. It was quietly axed this spring without input by First Nations or the wider public.

In fact, Kenney’s government only talked to one group, the Coal Association of Canada. (See this related story published today on The Tyee.)The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

That lobbying group is directed by Robin Campbell, a former Tory provincial environmental minister.

Now a handful of largely Australian-owned corporations intent on serving metallurgical coal markets in India and China are poised to begin transforming Alberta’s eastern slopes into an industrial mining zone.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

U.S. Government Knew Climate Risks in 1970s, Energy Advisory Group Documents Show

U.S. Government Knew Climate Risks in 1970s, Energy Advisory Group Documents Show

The National Petroleum Council, once chaired by former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond, has long advised the federal government on energy issues

The National Petroleum Council, once chaired by former Exxon chief Lee Raymond, has long advised the U.S. government on energy issues. Documents show it downplayed fossil fuels’ role in climate change. Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images  

A series of newly discovered documents clarify the extent to which the U.S. government, its advisory committees and the fossil fuel industry have understood for decades the impact carbon dioxide emissions would have on the planet.

The documents obtained by Climate Liability News show how much the National Petroleum Council (NPC), an oil and natural gas advisory committee to the Secretary of Energy, knew about climate change as far back as the 1970s. A series of reports illuminate the findings of government-contracted research that outlined the dangers associated with increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.

They also shed light on how this advisory group to the federal government understood the fossil fuel industry’s contributions to climate change, and unveil the strategies it used to downplay the industry’s role. 

“These documents reaffirm that, to one extent or another, the fossil fuel industry as a whole has known for decades about the basics of climate change and its implications. But rather than warning the public and taking action, many of them turned around and orchestrated anti-science, anti-policy denial campaigns dwarfing even those of Big Tobacco,” said Geoffrey Supran, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard who has extensively studied those denial campaigns.

Many of the documents were compiled by Hugh MacMillan, then a senior researcher on water, energy and climate issues for Food & Water Watch, an environmental nonprofit. He was preparing to file a public comment to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to the Trump Administration’s plan to replace the Clean Power Plan.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Finance, Fossil Fuels, and Climate Change

Finance and Fossil Fuels: Mark Hudson and Katelyn Friesen

Finance, Fossil Fuels, and Climate Change

Networks of Power in Canada

In our home country of Canada, the disparity between climate rhetoric and practice was recently pushed into the spotlight when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – an avowed climate champion – purchased on behalf of Canada an unfinished bitumen pipeline from Houston-based corporation Kinder-Morgan. The construction and operation of this pipeline will contribute to a planned increase in oil and gas extraction that will blow Canada’s already-weak Paris commitments out of the water.

This has led to some head-scratching in Canada. Why has Trudeau expended so much political capital and CAN$4.5 billion of national revenue on expanding a pipeline – particularly one that actually has a pretty shaky business case? If his government is vocally committed to action on climate change, why is it hell-bent on digging up and sending yet more of our high-carbon, oil-sands bitumen out to be burnt?

This line of questioning has turned the gaze of many inquiring minds toward examining the power of the fossil-fuel industry in Canada’s national politics. Is the industry on its own powerful enough to drive federal policy, even when that policy clashes with highly-publicized commitments on climate change?

Outright denial, once the favoured elite option, and still held in reserve as a fallback position at the centre of global capitalism, has given way to a new elite consensus. ‘Climate change is happening; “humans” are the main cause; it’s serious; it will have major costs.’ From there, however, the dissonance begins.

In order to understand power, we have to look not just to the fields of extraction and their ruined landscapes, nor only at the immediate effects on water, air, wildlife, and the nearby communities that rely on all three. We also have to look up and down the commodity chain. Attention is currently fixed downstream, at the politics and power manifesting in decisions about who and what is expendable in order to get the bitumen to market.

Tar sands, Alberta. Photo credit: Dru Oja Jay, Howl Collective
Tar sands, Alberta. Photo credit: Flickr/Dru Oja Jay, Howl Collective/CC BY 2.0

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity

What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity

Photo Source Food & Water Watch | CC BY 2.0

As the nations of the world are gathered in Poland to fret about the state of the climate, there’s an unpleasant truth—one might say an inconvenient truth—that climate advocates have long refused to face: Big Fossil Fuel has beaten us.

We’ve done our damnedest to stop them from wrecking the climate, but they’re nonetheless pulling carbon from the ground in wondrous quantities. It was once astonishing that in the U.S. alone they could extract 55 quadrillion BTUs worth of oil, gas, and coal each year, as they did from 1970 to 2005. (A new home furnace puts out about 50,000 BTUs.) But 55,000,000,000,000,000 BTUs looks almost quaint now. Big Carbon extracted 60 quadrillion BTUs from U.S. soil in 2011, 70 quadrillion in 2015, and next year it’s expected to be 75 quadrillion. No wonder the 40 billion tons in CO2-equivalent greenhouse gases that our species emitted in 2001 became 45 billion in 2004, 50 billion in 2009, and 55 billion today. Climactivists have mostly preferred to ignore these ugly facts and focus instead on the impressive growth in renewable energy. And it is impressive. But here’s another somewhat inconvenient truth: We’re not using the new renewables to replace fossil fuels. We’re just using them to keep up with new energy demands—demands from our growing population and the newly consumptive lifestyles of once-poor peoples being lifted from their poverty. In short, Big Carbon is a juggernaut that we’ve hardly checked.

Sure, we’ve won some important skirmishes. We’ve gotten fracking banned in New York, Maryland, and Vermont. We’ve convinced big investors who control more than $7 trillion in assets to divest the $400 billion or so they once held in fossil fuels.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Difference Between Climate Change Caused By Humans and Those of Milankovitch Cycles

The Difference Between Climate Change Caused By Humans and Those of Milankovitch Cycles

As I knew would happen, my review of the very serious and heavily documented book, Unprecedented Crime (https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/10/26/global-warming-is-real-the-threat-is-real-ecocide-is-on-the-horizon/ ) resulted in condemnations from the fossil fuel industry’s trolls and from libertarians who think that global warming is a scheme for government to seize more power over private industry. Personally, I wish the fossil fuel trolls and libertarians were correct, but there is scant, if any, evidence on their side. I must say that I am discouraged that the oligarchs’ disinformation campaigns are again taking precedence over fact.

Global warming deniers, which includes honest, non-ideological people, say that the planet has been subjected to many warming and cooling periods, and that it is only natural that the cycles are contining. Climate scientists know this very well, and that is what disturbs them. The fact that the planet has warmed and cooled before does not mean that there is no danger.

Searching around for a simple explanation for readers, I found this report ( https://www.cnn.com/2015/11/06/world/two-degrees-question-ice-ages/index.html ) from a CNN meteorologist in 2015. (Note that the 0.85 centigrade rise in temperature in the report is, only 3 years later, up to 1.1C.)

The real question is: why are man-made greenhouse emissions since about 1880, the onset of the industrial era, more dangerous than those of the Milankovitch Cycles? The answer is: the speed of change.

Here is the gist of the CNN report:

Scientists understand the natural processes behind the previous warm and cold periods that lead to ice ages. They occur in regular patterns called Milankovitch cycles. These cycles occur because the Earth’s orbit around the sun is not constant.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Petro-Hegemony and the Carbon Rebellion

Petro-Hegemony and the Carbon Rebellion

Part 1: An introduction to a theory of change for the climate justice movement

The following post is the first in a four part series that I am hoping will help translate what I’ve learned throughout my PhD dissertation research into accessible and useful tools that can be shared and applied across the climate justice movement in North America. The tools, both theoretical and practical, are ones I’ve learned about through studying and working with climate justice campaigns to keep fossil fuels in the ground in the United States and Canada. I have spent the past 4 years studying the power relations upon which the fossil fuel industry depends and the ways in which climate justice campaigners have sought to challenge that power and advance a just transition away from fossil fuels. I’ve been learning a great deal about the strategies, narratives, and tactics that both the industry and its opponents use in this momentous struggle. In these four posts I’m going to talk about how these work, why they work, what unforeseen consequences they might have, and the extent to which they can be taken out of their specific contexts and generalized across the movement.

Most of what I want to share in these posts I have learned from the campaigns and movement leaders I’ve studied and worked with, but I have also drawn upon a wealth of academic and non-academic writing on the fossil fuel industry and social movement theory as well. My contribution, therefore, will be to synthesize, contextualize, analyse, and share this academic and movement knowledge across our campaigns to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Vast Blind Spot’: IPCC Accused of Ignoring ‘Decades Long’ Fossil Fuel Misinformation Campaign on Climate

‘Vast Blind Spot’: IPCC Accused of Ignoring ‘Decades Long’ Fossil Fuel Misinformation Campaign on Climate

Charles Koch

The United Nations (UN) climate science panel is being accused of ignoring research into fossil fuel-funded misinformation campaigns that have been key to holding back action on global warming.

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — an assessment of more than 6,000 research papers — found global warming caused largely by fossil fuel burning would have severe impacts even if limited to 1.5°C (2.7°F).

Described by the IPCC as “one of the most important climate change reports ever published,” the report is designed to inform policy makers and the public around the world.

But several researchers are angry the report did not take account of academic research into the “decades-long misinformation campaign” funded and promoted by fossil fuel interests and so-called “free market” conservative think tanks that has been a major brake on progress.

Several researchers say the lack of consideration of academic research into misinformation campaigns was a vital but missed opportunity to educate the public and policy makers. The groups that have colluded with the fossil fuel industry have been credited with pushing President Donald Trump to pledge to pull the U.S. from the UN‘s Paris Agreement.

A Vast Blind Spot

This is an important barrier to climate action, but it is never addressed,” said Professor Robert Brulle of Drexel University, who has published research on the funding and influence of climate science denial efforts.

A large existing literature on this was ignored by the IPCC,” he added.

The IPCC special report showed that keeping global warming to 1.5°C would require a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel use between now and the middle of the century.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

West Virginia Democratic Candidate Hauled From Legislative Hearing for Listing Off Corporate Donors to Fossil Fuel-Friendly Lawmakers

A packed House Chamber takes in Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin's speech, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011, in Charleston, W.Va., during the State of the State address. (AP Photo/Howie McCormick)
Photo: Howie McCormick/AP

WEST VIRGINIA DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE HAULED FROM LEGISLATIVE HEARING FOR LISTING OFF CORPORATE DONORS TO FOSSIL FUEL-FRIENDLY LAWMAKERS

LISSA LUCAS IS a Democrat running for a state House seat in West Virginia’s District 7. Part of her campaign’s goal is to challenge the stranglehold of the fossil fuel industry on the state’s politics.

So in the second week of February, when the legislature held public hearings on House Bill 4268 — which would allow for the drilling on properties with multiple owners if 75 percent, rather than all, of the owners enter into a lease — Lucas came to voice her opposition to the legislation, believing it to undermine the rights of property owners.

And to the chagrin of the West Virginia House of Delegates, she came bearing receipts.

She stood on the floor and read off corporate donors to the legislators moving the legislation — going through the gamut of fossil fuel companies dominant in West Virginia, from Dominion to FirstEnergy.

Republican Delegate John Shott, who was overseeing the hearing, took offense at Lucas’s reading of publicly available campaign finance data, equating it to a personal attack.

“Miss Lucas, we ask no personal comments be made,” he told her over his microphone.

“This is not personal comments,” she replied.

“It is a personal comment and I’m gonna call you out of order if you talk about individuals on the committee. So if you would just address the bill. If not, I’ll ask you to please step down,” he said to her.

She continued to list off donors, her microphone was cut off, and legislative security was called to remove her from the chamber. Watch it below:

In an interview with The Intercept, Lucas explained that she traveled to the capitol from the northern part of the state the day before the hearing to make sure she could say her piece.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fossil Fuel Dollars Flow into Local Elections Threatening Development in the West

Fossil Fuel Dollars Flow into Local Elections Threatening Development in the West

A child holds a hand-drawn sign protesting fracking near his school in Colorado

In Colorado, the drilling boom that accompanied hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is coming under increasing scrutiny, especially in the wake of several lethal accidents in frontline communities. On November 7, Broomfield, a large town between Denver and Boulder, will vote on a charter amendment that would require oil and gas development to safeguard the environment and “not adversely impact the health, safety, and welfare of Broomfield’s residents.”

The citizen-initiated charter amendment, Question 301, reiterates a Colorado Court of Appeals ruling from earlier this year, which some say changes the mandate of the state regulatory commission in charge of oil and gas. Following a lawsuit by Colorado teen Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, the court ruled in March that safeguarding public health and the environment was indeed “a condition that must be fulfilled” prior to oil and gas drilling.

This decision was a stark divergence from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission’s long-held stance that the commission only had to “balance” health and the environment, with its mandate to facilitate fossil fuel extraction.

A campaign to defeat Broomfield’s charter amendment has received over $344,000 in contributions from the industry. The Colorado Petroleum Council — a local chapter of the American Petroleum Institute — is involved with a suite of campaign activities against it, including phone outreach, direct mailing, polling, data, digital outreach, and online advertising.

Supporters of Question 301, meanwhile, have so far raised about $7,000.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

When did you discover that there is something badly wrong with democracy?

When did you discover that there is something badly wrong with democracy?

For me, it was in 2009. I had been invited to speak at a meeting called “The Festival of Energy;” a thinly disguised public relation stunt for the fossil fuel lobby, designed to show that renewable energy is a cute thing and that, surely, someday in a remote future, it might be really used.

At the meeting, I found myself sitting in the audience in a debate about nuclear energy. The year before, Silvio Berlusconi’s party, “the people of freedom,” had won the national elections. Almost immediately afterward, the new government had announced that Italy was going to return to nuclear energy after a moratorium that had started in 1987, and that four new nuclear plants would be built. So, the debate was supposed to be about that.

The experts on the panel were divided between those who were enthusiastically favorable to nuclear energy and those who were mildly favorable. The audience listened in silence, somewhat awed. Then, there came the time for questions and answers. Someone rose up and expressed the opinion that the government should have promoted a national debate before taking a decision on nuclear energy.

The answer came from a functionary of the newly elected government and it provided for me a new understanding of the concept of “glee.” Wearing an elegant double-breasted suit, this man addressed the person in the audience more or less as a Medieval lord would address one of the peasants of his feud.

“My good man,” the functionary said, “there will be no national debate on nuclear energy. We have been elected by the people on a program that said that we would have Italy return to nuclear energy and that gives us the authority to do just that. So, we decided to start building the new plants and that’s what we will do.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

New Report by Top Senators Details Financial Ties Between Fossil Fuel Industry and Clean Power Plan Opponents

New Report by Top Senators Details Financial Ties Between Fossil Fuel Industry and Clean Power Plan Opponents

The stakes are high not only for the environment, but for fossil fuel companies — and those companies have poured enormous sums of money into efforts that would help ensure the Clean Power Plan never goes into effect, according to a report issued this week by four members of Congress.

The report is formatted as an amicus curie — or friend of the court — brief but was not filed with the court, and it takes a detailed look at the money that has moved behind the scenes. It’s entitled, “The Brief No One Filed.”

It was issued by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, and Edward J. Markey — some of the most powerful Democrats in the Senate. Senators Whitehouse, Boxer, and Markey serve on the Environment and Public Works Committee, while Sen. Reid is the Senate Democratic Leader.

“The American public is aware of and alarmed by the massive influx of special interest money and considers this a top problem with elected officials in Washington,” the four senators wrote.  “More than 80 percent of Americans believe the government cannot be trusted to do what is right most of the time.”

Large sums of money — over $100 million — have been funneled from the fossil fuel industry to key players in the litigation, the report concludes.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Obama Again Sounds Climate Change Alarm But Continues Supporting Fossil Fuel Industry

Obama Again Sounds Climate Change Alarm But Continues Supporting Fossil Fuel Industry

President Barak Obama on a hike in Hawaii.

On September 8, The New York Times published an interview with President Barack Obama in which he discussed the rapidly approaching, and already present, dangers of climate change, along with the threats that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would pose to the environment as president.

Reflecting on his climate legacy in the interview, President Obama reinforced his concerns about and dedication to acting on climate change, but his rhetoric fails to match up with his broader record, which notably includes overseeing the United States’ rise to the top spot among fossil fuel producers worldwide.

Indeed, in the interview, President Obama referred to climate change trends as “terrifying,” a statement which is hard to argue with considering the overwhelming scientific evidence. The Times also mentions the president’s successes in putting the Clean Power Plan in place and his role in committing the United States to the Paris climate agreement.

President Obama also attempted to explain why getting through to people on climate change can be so challenging, as The Times noted:

What makes climate change difficult is that it is not an instantaneous catastrophic event,” he said. “It’s a slow-moving issue that, on a day-to-day basis, people don’t experience and don’t see.”

Climate change, Mr. Obama often says, is the greatest long-term threat facing the world, as well as a danger already manifesting itself as droughts, storms, heat waves and flooding. More than health care, more than righting a sinking economic ship, more than the historic first of an African-American president, he believes that his efforts to slow the warming of the planet will be the most consequential legacy of his presidency.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Peak Oil: Just A Distraction Pt 2

In the end, does the choice of words really matter?
The “Yes, we’ve reached Peak Oil” versus the “No, we have not” is a distraction—and I’ve done my part to contribute.

But without recognizing and accepting the simple truth that we’re drawing down a finite and depleting resource which necessitates almost unimaginable adaptations and transitions to Plan B, the limits of human ingenuity and technological prowess will inevitably be reached if we keep tweaking the one finite resource mankind has relied upon more than any other.

And thus the heart of the matter.

The wells won’t run dry next week or next month. The sky is not falling. But the peak rate of conventional crude oil production was reached a decade ago. That’s an important fact glossed over by those disputing the message about our future oil supply. For all the Happy Talk courtesy of fossil fuel industry cheerleaders picking nits, that fact alone is an enormous problem.

The higher production totals of recent years are a genuinely impressive achievement, and should not be discounted. But shale production has shown itself to be what peak oil advocates said it would be: a costly, time-consuming, technology-intensive effort with a relatively limited shelf life.

Today’s low, low prices and declining demand owing to current economic conditions, when combined with a less than enthusiastic investment climate and the high debt levels carried by most oil producing companies, is squeezing that pipeline. The “glut” spoken of is a reflection of these factors much more so than a testament to how much oil industry can produce with just a snap of the fingers.

The diminished funding has resulted in severe reduction in exploration projects. They won’t start back up overnight if or when economic conditions improve. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Senators Introduce “Merchants of Doubt” Amendment Into Energy Bill, Call On Fossil Fuel Industry To End Climate Denial and Deception

Senators Introduce “Merchants of Doubt” Amendment Into Energy Bill, Call On Fossil Fuel Industry To End Climate Denial and Deception

Democratic U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Ed Markey (MA) and Brian Schatz (HI) introduced an amendment into the energy bill yesterday intended to express Congress’s disapproval of the use of industry-funded think tanks and misinformation tactics aimed at sowing doubt about climate change science.

The amendment evokes the history of notorious anti-science efforts by the tobacco and lead industries to avoid accountability for the damage caused by their products, focusing similar ire on the fossil fuel industry’s decades-long climate cover-up.

Although it doesn’t name specific companies, the amendment is surely inspired by recent revelations about ExxonMobil’s early and advanced knowledge of the role of fossil fuels in driving climate change — which was followed by the company’s subsequent, unconscionable climate science denial efforts.

Just as tobacco and lead companies sowed doubt about the dangers of their products through the use of front groups and third-party experts, so did ExxonMobil — through its funding of a sophisticated network of denialists — work to deceive the public about climate science and the need for political action to end the fossil fuel era.

The most recent and damning #ExxonKnew revelations were published late in 2015 in investigative articles by both InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times in collaboration with the Columbia School of Journalism.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined the amendment as a co-sponsor once it was introduced.

It is the sense of the Senate that according to peer-reviewed scientific research and investigative reporting, fossil fuel companies have long known about the harmful climate effects of their products,” the amendment reads.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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