The oil lobby and dirty energy

Modernity writes:

There is often talk about “the Lobby”, and those words have a certain resonance and conjure up an unpleasant mental picture for most of us, however, I am going to argue that the real lobby in the world is hardly ever discussed, in any meaningful way.

That is the extent of its power.

Clearly, we hear bits about it, in a broad sense, yet it is rarely analysed for its component parts, wider geopolitical influence and negative effect on human rights.

It spans the globe.

Nevertheless, much of the discussion relating to it comes across in a rather crude materialistic fashion, lacking subtlety and depth

There is seldom any piercing critique of the countries involved, the powerful players, the governments, the vested interests, the paid lobbyists, the various parliamentarians on the payroll, etc and above all, the oil companies.

Yes, that is the Lobby I am talking about, the oil lobby.

Dan Froomkin at HuffPost has a good article, which touches upon some of the issues.

The Froomkin piece, “How The Oil Lobby Greases Washington’s Wheels“, is quite hard-hitting.

Clout in Washington isn’t about winning legislative battles — it’s about making sure that they never happen at all. The oil and gas industry has that kind of clout.

Despite astronomical profits during what have been lean years for most everyone else, the oil and gas industry continues to benefit from massive, multi-billion dollar taxpayer subsidies. Opinion polling shows the American public overwhelmingly wants those subsidies eliminated. Meanwhile, both parties are hunting feverishly for ways to reduce the deficit.

But when President Obama called on Congress to eliminate about $4 billion a year in tax breaks for Big Oil earlier this year, the response on the Hill was little more than a knowing chuckle. Even Obama’s closest congressional allies don’t think the president’s proposal has a shot.

At an angle to this, read Ellen Cantarow on dirty energy. TomDispatch sets the context:

If BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster was the elephant in the room, Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station was a blue whale.  “Now, in light of the ongoing events in Japan, I want to just take a minute to talk about nuclear power,” the president began, before extolling its supposed virtues as a clean energy source.  “So those of us who are concerned about climate change, we’ve got to recognize that nuclear power, if it’s safe, can make a significant contribution to the climate change question.”  By the end, he left no room for debate about the future of atomic power in the United States, telling the audience: “[W]e can’t simply take it off the table.”

Ongoing events.  It was a curious and entirely disingenuous way to describe the ever-worsening disaster at Fukushima when, just the day before, Japan’s prime minister, Naoto Kan, told his Parliament, “The earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear accident may be Japan’s largest-ever crisis.”  He said this, it’s worth reminding ourselves, about a country that, within living memory, saw more than 60 of its cities reduced to ashes through systematic firebombing and two metropolises obliterated by atomic bombs, losing hundreds of thousands of its citizens in one of the most devastating wars of a conflict-filled century.  In fact, the very morning that Obama gave his speech, the New York Times quoted Tetsuo Iguchi, a professor in the department of quantum engineering at Nagoya University, about a subject that only a few outside observers had dared to previously broach: the prospect of a swath of Japan becoming an irradiated dead zone.  “The worst-case scenario is that a meltdown makes the plant’s site a permanent grave,” Iguchi said.

Between his soft-peddling of ecological and humanitarian catastrophes resulting from dirty energy and his advocacy of a variety of dubious strategies for freeing America from the chains of foreign petroleum, the president admitted that the U.S. would continue to import oil for the foreseeable future. “It will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time until we’ve gotten alternative energy strategies fully in force,” Obama told the crowd.  “And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, obviously we’ve got to look at neighbors like Canada and Mexico that are stable and steady and reliable sources.”

Unlike offshore drilling and nuclear power, reliance on neighboring countries for a particularly dirty form of energy didn’t prompt any excuses or handwringing from the president, as if petroleum from Mexico (a place his secretary of state likened to insurgent-embattled Colombia of the 1990s) and Canada posed no problems.  If you believe that, then I’ve got an electric power company in Japan to sell you.

And here’s an extract from Ellen:

Energy is ugly.  Some forms more so than others, as nuclear near-meltdowns in Japan, the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and deaths in a West Virginia Coal Mine explosion have driven home in the last year.  Energy kills plants, plankton, and people.  It imperils the environment, poisons the oceans, and is threatening to turn part of Japan, one of the most advanced nations on the planet, into a contaminated zone for decades to come.

David Daniel knows this all too well.  He built his dream home on 20 acres of lush wilderness, alive with panthers, wild boar, and deer, in Winnsboro, East Texas.  Then a nightmare called tar sands appeared on his doorstep.

Tar sands are sandy soils laden with a tar-like substance called bitumen. Getting oil out of them is a dirty, dangerous, and deadly process. Daniel knew none of this when a neighbor phoned in the fall of 2008 to say that he’d seen trespassers on the property. “I went back [from work] and I found survey stakes that cut my property in half,” he recalls. Several months later, an eminent domain letter arrived, telling him that a pipeline carrying oil from Canada’s “oil sands” would cut through his pristine property. When he complained to TransCanada, the company in charge, its lawyer responded with a veiled threat: “Should I put the letter in the ‘cooperative’ or the ‘uncooperative pile?’”

So began the Daniel family’s struggles with TransCanada, whose powerful US backers include Koch Industries (best known for its stealth attacks on the federal government, and big spending on climate-change-denial campaigns). By the time TransCanada’s surveyors entered the Daniels’ lives, the corporation was already hard at work pushing a pipeline that would run from the Canadian border to Texas’s Gulf Coast, along the way slicing through the Daniels’ land and the properties of countless other Americans.

At no time did TransCanada’s representatives volunteer information about tar sands, leaving Daniel to do his own research. When he asked how tar sands oil would affect the pipeline, TransCanada responded only that the effects would be determined after the pipeline was put in place. “They made us feel like lab rats on our own property,” he says.

 

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2 Responses to “The oil lobby and dirty energy”

  1. It’s somewhat ironic that the green energy threat to “big oil” will come out of China, because of the level of lobbying permitted in the US and North America.

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