Archive for ‘Environmental crisis’

June 12, 2011

Scramble for Arctic oil and gas puts pristine ecosystem at risk

From the Ecologist, via The Free:

Mark Jansen // 6th June, 2011

The Arctic is becoming a battleground as Russia, Norway, Canada and the US vie for access to oil, gas and minerals – campaigners fear safety and the environment will be the losers

one cannot exclude that in the future there will be…armed intervention

The Arctic covers 30 million square km, has 24 time zones and is home to just four million people. It also has vast reserves of oil and gas, not to mention diamonds, platinum, nickel and iron.

Those reserves have been known about for centuries, yet a combination of new extraction technology and rising demand means that the human race is ready to start ripping them out – raising the threat of devastating pollution to a uniquely clean environment and worsening the problem of global warming, even as the ice caps are melting.

Greenpeace claims they could even cause a war in the region, with releases this month by Wikileaks, the whistle-blowing website, showing how the scramble for oil and gas in the Arctic is sparking military tension. Norway’s foreign minister is quoted as saying regular military flights by the Russians up and down Norway’s coast had helped to justify the purchase of four new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter combat aircraft to the Norwegian public. Meanwhile, the head of the Russian navy is quoted as saying ‘one cannot exclude that in the future there will be a redistribution of power [in the region], up to armed intervention.’

Instead of seeing the melting of the Arctic ice cap as a spur to action on climate change, point out campaigners, Arctic nations are preferring to invest in military hardware to fight for the oil beneath it.

Read more HERE

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April 8, 2011

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:

read more »

April 2, 2011

Biofuels: reports on a global disaster

Excel Graph showing the Carbon Intensity of di...

Following on from this and this

Annie Bird: Biofuels, Mass Evictions and Violence Build on the Legacy of the 1978 Panzos Massacre in Guatemala: Internationally-funded Guatemalan bio-fuel interests evict Mayan Qeqchi families from their historic lands, destroying homes and crops, killing one, injuring more, while thousands are without food or shelter.

Climate and Capitalism: Jatropha Biofuel Project: Emissions Up to Six Times Greater Than Fossil FuelsA new study from Kenya shows that jatropha, which has been promoted as a “wonder fuel,” is a disaster for the environment and for the people the plantations displaced. A biofuel currently considered a green, renewable alternative to oil could cause up to six times more carbon emissions than fossil fuels, a study by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, ActionAid and Nature Kenyahas revealed. The report comes as petroleum once again climbs above $100 a barrel, pushing the demand for biofuel sky high.

BBC: Former workers at a biofuels plant near Hull are holding their biggest protest so far against the cancellation of their contracts. Redhall Engineering Solutions (RES) employees lost their jobs at Saltend Chemicals near Hull earlier this month after the project fell behind schedule.

Wales Today: Agency responsible for regulating biofuels entering the UK market and encouraging their sustainability is to close on March 31. The Renewable Fuels Agency (RFA) is to be dissolved as part of a wider review of arms-length government bodies

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April 1, 2011

Wisdom

Reserves-petroles-dispo-sel

A confluence of recent events – nuclear crisis in Japan, the struggle in Libya, the downgrading of Saudi Arabia’s oil capacity and the tragi-comic attempt to introduce ‘bio-fuel’ has created the perfect opportunity for a fundamental, worldwide debate on energy use and the creation of sustainable societies. Will that debate take place? That’s another question.

March 17, 2011

The UK: oilier than ever

Daniel Elton writes:

The Cameron administration has a firm aspiration to be the ‘greenest government ever‘, but the reality is turning out to be quite different. Alongside having a transport secretary who advocates gas-guzzling changes to public policy, and continuing to encourage road-building in a time of austerity, it turns out that the person almost certain to head up the coalition’s environment and energy policy is a former BP policy advisor.

Deep-sea-oil-drilling

Ben Moxham is currently working at the Riverstone private equity group which focuses on energy investment. In line with civil service practice, he has been put forward on a short list of one by civil servants for approval by the prime minister and Nick Clegg.

Moxham was previously director of policy of BP’s alternative energy department and part of the team pledged to move BP  ‘Beyond Petroleum’. However, the initiative concerned environmental campaigners as ineffective. [READ THE REST]

October 27, 2010

Big oil, the Arab lobby and the American right

0620covdcAmerican politics has always been dominated by special interest groups, including foreign interests. It is in the nature of its checks and balances democratic system and its deregulated economy.

A recent report by the Climate Action Network [pdf] shows how “BP and several other big European companies are funding the midterm election campaigns of Tea Party favourites who deny the existence of global warming or oppose Barack Obama’s energy agenda.” According to the Guardian, “80% of campaign donations from a number of major European firms were directed towards senators who blocked action on climate change. These included incumbents who have been embraced by the Tea Party such as Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, and the notorious climate change denier James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma.”

The report claims that

the companies, including BP, BASF, Bayer and Solvay, which are some of Europe’s biggest emitters, had collectively donated $240,200 to senators who blocked action on global warming – more even than the $217,000 the oil billionaires and Tea Party bankrollers, David and Charles Koch, have donated to Senate campaigns.

The biggest single donor was the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which gave $108,100 to senators. BP made $25,000 in campaign donations, of which $18,000 went to senators who opposed action on climate change. Recipients of the European campaign donations included some of the biggest climate deniers in the Senate, such as Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has called global warming a hoax.

The foreign corporate interest in America’s midterms is not restricted to Europe. A report by ThinkProgress, operated by the Centre for American Progress, tracked donations to the Chamber of Commerce from a number of Indian and Middle Eastern oil coal and electricity companies.

Foreign interest does not stop with the elections. The Guardian reported earlier this year that a Belgian-based chemical company, Solvay, was behind a front group that is suing to strip the Obama administration of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are some of the foreign corporations funding the anti-climate change Chamber of Commerce, a major route of corporate donations to right-wing political candidates:

– Avantha Group, India (at least $7,500 in annual member dues): power plants

– The Bahrain Petroleum Company, Kingdom of Bahrain ($5,000): state-owned oil campany

– Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, Kingdom of Bahrain ($5,000): state-owned oil company

– Essar Group, Mumbai, India ($7,500): oil & gas, coal power

– GMR, Bangalore, India ($15,000): coal power, mining

– Hinduja Group, London, UK ($15,000): the Gulf Oil group

– Jindal Power, New Delhi, India ($15,000): coal power

– Lahmeyer International, Frankfurt, Germany ($7,500): power plant engineering

– Punj Lloyd, Gurgaon, India ($15,000): offshore pipelines

– Reliance Industries, Mumbai, India ($15,000): oil and gas, petrochemicals

– SNC Lavalin, Montreal, Canada ($7,500): mining, power plant, and oil & gas engineering

– Tata Group, Mumbai, India ($15,000): power plants, oil & gas

– Walchandnagar Industries, Mumbai, India ($7,500): power plant, oil & gas engineering

– Welspun, Mumbai, India ($7,500): oil & gas exploration

Meanwhile, California is a key battle ground in the fight between Big Oil and American democracy. There, Proposition 23, to be voted on on November 2, will reverse 2006’s Proposition 32, the law that attempts to reverse global climate change. Writes Rebecca Solnit:

“According to data from the California Secretary of State’s office,” Kate Sheppard recently reported in Mother Jonesmagazine, “more than 98% of contributions to the pro-Prop. 23 campaign are from oil companies. Eighty-nine percent of the contributions come from out of state… Valero contributed $4 million, Tesoro gave $1.5 million, and a refinery owned by the notorious Kansas-based billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, of Koch Industries, kicked in another $1 million. Just last week, Houston-based Marathon oil contributed $500,000.”

Actually, Tesoro and Valero are headquartered out of state, but their refineries in California gave us 2.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals in our air and water last year, and they’d like to continue offering the citizens of my state these gifts that keep giving illness, death, and long-term environmental devastation without interference. The coming vote is not about protecting fancy places for upscale hikers — the stereotype used to portray environmentalism as a white-person’s luxury movement — it’s about air quality for inner-city people, especially those who live near refineries and harbors. This is the kind of environmental degradation that’s about childhood asthma and increased deaths from respiratory illness. In other words, Prop. 23 is part of a corporate war on the poor. A vote for Prop. 23 is a vote to turn the lungs of poor children into a snack for dinosaurs, to put it in bluntly Hollywood-ish terms.

October 2, 2010

Chart of the week: global warming is real



Source and explanation here.

June 27, 2010

News, comment and analysis


In this edition, we look at the geopolitics of the Gaza flotillas – an index of
the increasingly multipolar world we live in the wake of the last superpower, the United States. In the vacuum left by the US, Turkey, Iran and, to a lesser extent, Russia and China are jockeying for position, using Islamist paramilitary/parapolitical groups like Hezbollah and Hamas as their proxies. Then we turn back to capitalism’s heartlands, the US and Europe, with three reports on the deepening crisis, including the on-going social unrest in Greece. We also feature another report on social unrest, from China, whose wave of wildcat strikes we have examined in previous issues. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico remains one of the major issues of our day. What does it say about corporations’ attitudes to the planet and to people? Finally, are there alternatives to the present system, and can the G20 do anything about it?

read more »

April 13, 2010

NEWS: The Battle for East Lake in Wuhan, China

Hundreds of Wuhan citizens are fighting to save the city’s East Lake Ecological Tourist Scenic Area (东湖生态旅游风景区) from plans to fill in part of the lake and develop the area commercially.

[READ THE REST]

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April 13, 2010

COMMENT: On Being a 21st Century Peasant: Environmentalist Bill McKibben’s new book on the coming global collapse [Ronald Bailey]

“Here’s all I’m trying to say: The planet on which our civilization evolved no longer exists,” asserts environmentalist Bill McKibben in his new book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet. “The earth that we knew—the only earth we ever knew—is gone.” According to McKibben, we are about to find ourselves living on a much less friendly planet he calls “Eaarth.” Why? Because the climate is about to get really freaky due to man-made global warming and we’re also about to run out of oil—the apocalypse, courtesy of Peak Temperature and Peak Oil combined. McKibben is no stranger to environmentalist jeremiads, having declared The End of Nature back in 1989 due to global warming and the rise of biotechnology. Twenty years later he’s declaring the end of civilization, at least, as we know it.

[READ THE REST]