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Environmental Defence Fund

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. s Defense of Fracking (NRDC, Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, EDF)

“… you cannot regulate an abomination. You have got to stop it.” – Wendell Berry, writer/ environmental activist

Since the article featured below, published on October 26, 2011, Global News has aired a new video titled – ‘Untested Science’. The investigation reports that the technique called ‘fracking’ is raising serious environmental red flags. Bloomberg reported on November 2nd, 2011, that “gas fracking probably caused earthquakes in United Kingdom. Petroleum Economist reported on November 3rd, 2011:”Shale gas vs renewables: a battle for Britain“. In a shameful blog post on November 4th, 2011, the king of corporate ‘greens’, Environmental Defense Fund wrote that “shale gas reserves could reignite U.S. economy” (see blog post following article below). On the EDF website you can “See how we’re accelerating climate change: EDF’s corporate partnerships.” On November 9th, 2011, it was disclosed that the gas fracking industry is using military psychological warfare tactics and personnel in U.S. communities.

Notes on RFK, Jr.’s defense of fracking in the Huffington Post

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and the ‘natural’ gas industry he works with

October 26, 2011

By Robert Jereski

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has finally acknowledged some terrible things about the fracking-for-natural gas industry. This took the good work of a lot of activists outraged at his appearance in ads for the gas industry and his groups’ promotion of gas as a ‘transition’ fuel. Tragically for New York, however, by the middle of his opinion piece, it is clear that he hasn’t even convinced himself.

Keywords:

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has finally acknowledged some terrible things about the fracking-for-natural gas industry. This took the good work of a lot of activists outraged at his appearance in ads for the gas industry and his groups’ promotion of gas as a ‘transition’ fuel. Tragically for New York, however, by the middle of his opinion piece, it is clear that he hasn’t even convinced himself, and that he ignores the need to ban fracking and the widespread demand by engaged environmental activist that it be banned.

Mr. Kennedy is on New York Governor Cuomo’s Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel. Rather than listen to the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who in communities throughout the state have voted to ban fracking in their part of New York, Mr. Kennedy praises his buddy on the fracking panel, Mark Boling, from Southwestern Energy, a massive gas industry player.

Kennedy is Still a Booster of Safe Fracking, Despite all his Pained Reasons not to be. Why?

Because he is still a shill for the gas industry, who is proceeding with phase two of the Critical Path Energy Summit’s plans about fracking: “Make it Safe.” Robert F. Kennedy’s recent, apparently purely theatrical, diatribe against the gas industry in the Huffington Post spills much ink repeating industry talking points and then concludes that fracking is safe and that environmentalists will support it if the promised jobs and royalties materialize and if it is ‘reasonably regulated’. What??

For someone claiming to speak the “truth” why no mention of widespread popular movement to ban fracking?

A year ago regulator/politicians, gas industry CEOs (including Kennedy’s mentor on NYS Governor Cuomo Fracking Advisory Panel Mark Boling) and fellow pro-‘safe’ fracking NGO representatives concluded that the pro-gas p.r. strategy had failed and that the public was overwhelmingly against fracking. They decided they needed to reframe ‘gas’.

Since their summit, Kennedy, Boling and others claim to have made the following progress: (http://aspensciencecenter.org/projects/natural_gas_1):

Below is quote from Aspen Energy Summit site revealing collusion between Kennedy (of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Riverkeeper), Carl Pope and Michael Brune (Sierra Club), Aubrey McClendon and Boling (Chesapeake and Southwestern Energy respectively), and pro-fracking politicians:

“Our 2010 Natural Gas Solutions Summit 1.0 was convened to chart the critical paths that will enable natural gas to achieve its optimal potential as that source—environmentally, economically, politically and globally.

A year later, that gathering of leaders can claim impressive results, in terms of new alliances, important ongoing initiatives, and fundamental changes in the US energy approach, among them:
• Developing a system for 100% transparency in the disclosure of chemical ingredients in hydraulic fracturing fluids that does NOT infringe on trade secrets
• Developing a model regulatory framework designed to ensure well bore integrity throughout the full lifecycle of a hydraulically fractured well.
• Forming a legal team and petitioning the EPA to enhance Natural Gas use: define and enforce Clean Air Act provisions, MACT Boiler Rule etc
• Development and publishing of tabletop life-cycle analysis of carbon impact coal vs. natural gas
• An alliance of NGOs, industry, government leaders committed to replacing coal with natural gas”

Big Gas isn’t just going after the NY Times, as Kennedy claims. Their PR cast and crew are congregating in Texas soon to prepare a new assault on grassroots pro-ban anti-fracking activists by studying “militant NGO’s” websites to take their PR campaign to a new level of “combat.” People who are against fracking aren’t just activists in the streets, but entire communities, regions, even states and countries.

Fracking has been banned by elected officials representing hundreds of thousands of people in numerous cities and towns throughout the country–places like Dryden, NY (pop. 13,532), Ithaca, NY (pop. 18,198), (Morgantown, West Virginia (pop. 26,809), Baldwin, Pa (pop. 19,767), Buffalo, NY (pop. 292, 648), and Pittsburg, Pa. (pop. 305, 704). Seems like something a truthsayer might breathe a little mention of.

RFK says there are 40,000 activists. Okay, well there are many more people who have banned fracking in their communities. Will those people simply be angry about promised jobs not materializing? No. We know what we want and it’s not what Kennedy’s pushing.

Here are a few relevant annotated quotes below.

“In pitting itself against public disclosure and reasonable regulation, the natural gas industry is once again proving that it is its own worst enemy”.

Note: Calls for disclosure and regulation of the fracking industry have been made by large DC-tied environmental organizations, many of which have long supported methane as a transitional fuel, without sound evidence on which to base this pro-polluting industry spin. Communities impacted by the fracking industry are much more inclined to ban fracking so these ‘environmental’ groups are trotted out to declare that bans or bills to impose criminal sanctions on frackers are ‘politically unrealistic’.

This is Kennedy’s role: he pens this op ed pretending to make amends to the environmental community that has been outraged by his support for fracking (through the pro-‘safe’ fracking NRDC and Riverkeeper and through his ads for the fracking industry). The Op Ed sidles up to the powerful NYTimes, gives a useful list of many of the egregious crimes of the industry, regulators and legislators revealed by the NYTimes, but pairs these outrages with the same old defense of fracking!

What a sleight of hand! Guess they don’t pay Kennedy the big bucks for nothing.

If only the gas industry were more honest and forthright and allowed “reasonable regulation”, we would all be happy and allow the country to be fracked because . . . (Kennedy implies) fracked gas is better for the climate than coal. That’s the industry lie he continues to repeat implicitly as he makes a false mea culpa about having colluded with them in Aspen, and appeared in gas industry propaganda!

The Cuomo ‘Fracking Advisory Panel is stacked with pro-‘safe’ fracking advocates like Kennedy and his ‘bright light’ Mark Boling. Here’s the Gas Main report, entitled “A GRASSROOTS PERSPECTIVE: Is the DEC Spending Taxpayer Funds on Propaganda to Promote ‘Safe’ Fracking? A Look at New York Governor Cuomo’s Hydraulic Fracturing Advisory Panel”:

http://gasmain.org/resources.htm

It may be true that the industry could have more easily continued to deceive and damage the communities of American people as it moved into the more densely populated Eastern states if it had pursued the p.r. strategy suggested by Kennedy here. But we’re not interested in being convinced by lies of ‘safe’ fracking.

Fracking is opposed by all real environmentalists. Period.

Kennedy oped here:
The Fracking Industry’s War On The New York Times — And The Truth
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.President, Waterkeeper Alliance; Professor, Pace University Posted: 10/20/11 02:18 PM ET

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-f-kennedy-jr/fracking-natural-gas-new-york-times-_b_1022337.html

http://nyc.indymedia.org/en/2011/10/116734.html

***

Shale Gas Reserves Could Reignite U.S. Economy

By EDF BLOGS | BIO | Published: NOVEMBER 4, 2011

By: Drew Nelson, EDF’s Clean Energy Project Manager

Yesterday, Bloomberg News produced a comprehensive article on shale gas and the hydraulic fracturing process used to tap it. The article provides some interesting history on how hydraulic fracturing has gone from a fringe technology practiced by only a few innovators to a widespread technology that, along with horizontal drilling, led to the current shale gas boom. It also highlights the fact that expanding U.S. shale gas production will play an important role in the U.S. economy and provide potential wins to local economies, local air quality, and the global climate system. However, as EDF President Fred Krupp points out in the article, these wins will only materialize IF the U.S. produces shale gas “in the right way.”

The article highlights EDF’s role on the front lines of ensuring that shale gas is produced in the right way, which we believe should include, among others:

– Comprehensive disclosure of hydraulic fracturing chemicals (significantly, a Chesapeake Energy spokesman notes in the story that industry’s failure to disclose that information has led to a lack of trust by the public and slowed down industry efforts to expand drilling);
– Modernization of rules for well construction and operation;
– Systems-based management of wastes and water;
– State and national standards for improving air quality and reducing climate impacts; and
– Minimization of land use and community impacts from natural gas development.

It is important for the natural gas industry to realize that business as usual isn’t going to cut it and EDF will continue to work with responsible gas companies to get the rules right. Stay tuned.

From the Belly of the Beast – A MUST READ on REDD – | REDD is Supported by Greenpeace, Conservation International, Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, WWF & Many More Corporate Greens

Blog Post from the Belly of the Beast: In the Bowels of the World Bank

–by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project; North American Focal Point, Global Forest Coalition

… the Indonesian military is getting money through climate financing for REDD-type projects. The communities that live in the forests–some of them Indigenous to the area, some of them relocated there in the 80s–are being invaded by heavily armed forest rangers, paramilitaries and police; and are forced to leave at gunpoint while their homes are burned to the ground.

Benoit Bosquet, Coordinator of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, defends the bank’s role in "forest conservation" in Indonesia, where forest-based communities have been forcibly evicted at gunpoint. Behind him is a photo of one such eviction. Photo: Petermann/GJEP

Today commenced the fall meetings of the World Bank in Washington, DC. The Bank has long been known for its strong-arm tactics to force countries in the Global South to turn over their resources–whether natural resources or poor peoples’ labor– to corporations based in the Industrialized North.

While the Bank is notorious as a major funder of fossil fuel projects, devastating large-scale hydroelectric projects and deforestation projects, they have now become one of the leaders in the effort to use “market-based” schemes for climate mitigation. They are the world’s carbon brokers.

Indeed, one of the items on their meeting agenda is climate finance–pumping money into various developing countries to supposedly undertake climate mitigation programs that will predominately benefit countries in the north, by enabling them to maintain business as usual and avoid cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Appropriately, there was a civil society session this morning on the impacts of climate finance for REDD projects in Indonesia. Indonesia is a global focal point for climate action because of the massive climate emissions that have occurred there largely as a result of the burning of primeval peat forests for conversion to oil palm plantations. But even the climate mitigation programs come with a high price, and Indonesia provides a stark case study of the devastating social and ecological impacts of REDD (the scheme to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation).

But in order to participate in the workshop, it was first necessary to navigate the World Bank’s ridiculous security process.

It became obvious quickly that the Bank is quite paranoid about security. Now why, I wondered sarcastically, would an institution whose mission is ostensibly about poverty eradication need blocks and blocks of metal barricades and legions of police surrounding it?

Perhaps it has something to do with all of the people around the globe who have suffered under their severely unjust policies. Maybe they never quite got over A-16, (April 16, 2000) when thousands of activists descended on DC to blockade all of the streets surrounding the World Bank in a massive condemnation of the Bank’s dirty dealings.

But on this day, there were no protests, yet I still got the run-around by numerous unfriendly security officers and police, directed this way and that until I finally managed to find the registration building.

Once there, I explained for the fourth time that I was only there for one workshop and just needed a day pass. “We’re not giving out day passes today,” the desk jockey muttered. I had not encountered such surly, robot-like people since the Manchester, New Hampshire jail after a group of us were arrested in January 2000 for occupying Al Gore’s NH campaign headquarters in support of the U’Wa people of Colombia, whose lands were threatened by oil drilling by Occidental Petroleum. (Al had a lot of stock in Occidental).

Frustrated, irritated and thoroughly disgusted, I was ready to give up and make the trek back uptown when I saw a separate registration area for CSOs (civil society organizations). Okay, I thought, one more try.

I won’t go into the details, but suffice it to say, I talked my way into an official access badge. Then after navigating yet more metal barricades, police officers and a metal detector, I finally arrived at my destination: the workshop on the impacts of REDD and forest “conservation” in Indonesia. It was horrifying.

Global Justice Ecology Project has been exposing the impacts of REDD on communities in Chiapas, Mexico and California as the result of a sub-national REDD carbon offset deal between the two states. Indigenous communities in the jungle of Chiapas are threatened with displacement for “forest protection” projects, and being subjected to intimidation tactics such as the withholding of medical services to try to force them to leave.

But what is happening on the ground in Indonesia is even more extreme. As one panelist pointed out, the violence happening to the people in the forests is even worse than the violence that occurred under the Suharto dictatorship.

While the dictatorship no longer exists, the military still maintains most of the power in the country–and now that the forests have suddenly increased in value because of REDD (because the carbon stored by the trees now has value), people who live in the forests but do not have official title to their lands (which is about 80% of the people in the rural areas) are being violently evicted for “conservation” projects.

In the 1980s, a program was initiated in Indonesia called the Transmigration Program. It moved 2.5 million people off of the heavily populated islands of Bali and Java and onto other islands, leading to tremendous land conflicts. In some areas, the ratio of migrants to locals was 2:1. This, the speaker explained, is exactly what is now happening under REDD. Massive population displacement.

In a nutshell, the Indonesian military is getting money through climate financing for REDD-type projects. The communities that live in the forests–some of them Indigenous to the area, some of them relocated there in the 80s–are being invaded by heavily armed forest rangers, paramilitaries and police; and are forced to leave at gunpoint while their homes are burned to the ground.

All in the name of conservation.

I spoke briefly with the panel moderator, a woman native to Indonesia, about our work in Chiapas and what we had found there.

“Yes,” she replied. “What we see in Indonesia is not unique. It is happening all over with these REDD projects.”

And what is the point of all of this suffering and misery and violence? To provide corporations in the industrialized north with the opportunity to avoid reducing their pollution by “buying” carbon stored in some distant forest thereby “offsetting” their emissions.

So, in other words, impoverished rural and Indigenous peoples are being confronted with unspeakable violence to allow companies in the North to continue to poison and pollute poor communities near their facilities in the North.

Benoit Bosque, of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (the Bank’s program to help design and fund REDD projects in tropical and subtropical countries) spoke and tried to deflect this intense critique by explaining that REDD was extremely complex, but we shouldn’t give up. “These conflicts are about an accumulation of past mistakes. We cannot let fear of mistakes prevent us from taking bold steps forward.”

Yeah, tell that to the Indigenous Peoples being thrown off of their ancestral lands…

His callous reply received a lot of indignant responses from both the audience and the panel, who pointed out that the World Bank’s track record of enforcing even its own safeguards is terrible. “Consultations have been window dressing. Demands must be made for accountability with World Bank partners or don‘t make them partners. Don’t give them funding!”

At that Benoit bid his adieu before there were any more confrontations about the Bank’s role in funding violence against forest dependent communities.

For these reasons and many, many more, organizations and Indigenous Peoples’ groups around the world are condemning REDD. For more information on this, go to: http://noredd.makenoise.org/. To learn more about GJEP’s work in Chiapas and California on REDD, go to http://climate-connections.org/category/chiapas-2/. To view our photo essay from the community of Amador Hernandez in the Lacandon Jungle, click here

http://climate-connections.org/2011/09/23/blog-post-from-the-belly-of-the-beast-in-the-bowels-of-the-world-bank/

(U.S.) Senate Climate Bill Dies-Does the Environment Win?

“For over a dozen years, since before the 1997 Kyoto climate summit, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Charitable Trust and other Big Green groups have been unshakably committed to cap-and-trade. Without bothering to consult grassroots activists or more maverick groups like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, Big Green anointed cap-and-trade as its climate mantra and forged a high-minded Beltway alliance with corporate giants like Exelon and GM.”

Charles Komanoff

July 28, 2010

Despite a Democratic supermajority in Congress, and despite President Obama’s campaign promise to tackle global warming, there will be no climate bill this year. The demise last week of the Kerry-Lieberman Senate bill makes that official. But that may actually be a good thing: it clears the way for genuine solutions to global warming­­—solutions that ordinary Americans can understand and support. And remember, most Americans do want their government to tackle climate change. A recent Stanford University poll found that 74 percent of the public believes climate change is human-caused, poses real threats and requires government action.

The bill that was withdrawn last week, like the Waxman-Markey bill that squeaked through the House last year and similar measures dating back to a 2003 Senate bill sponsored by John McCain, would have attempted to curb carbon emissions by creating a cap-and-trade market, a corporate-friendly approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under this system, a “capped” number of carbon emission permits are offered to coal, oil and gas extractors and importers, who can then sell (trade) the permits among themselves. As the volume of emissions permitted by the cap declined over time, the price of the carbon permits would rise, causing fossil-fuel energy to cost more and creating incentives to use less.

Cap-and-trade was popular inside the Beltway—some business interests and many mainstream environmental groups insisted on it—but it is a total loser in the larger battle to excite and mobilize public opinion. Attacks by climate-change denialists took a toll, but the arcane nature of cap-and-trade made it hard to love, and its links to the financial industry, originally viewed as an asset, turned toxic after the housing bubble burst.

There is a better way. Virtually everyone who truly desires emissions reductions agrees that putting a (rising) price on carbon is essential. But there’s another, better way to do that, one that also would deliver an economic bonus to a majority of Americans: the government should institute a fee-and-dividend system.

Like cap-and-trade, fee-and-dividend would limit emissions by building a fee for carbon emissions into the price of gasoline, coal-fired electricity and other carbon-based fuels, thereby giving consumers and businesses powerful incentives to use less. As in cap-and-trade, the fee would be imposed at the wellhead or import dock, eventually to be passed down the supply chain to consumers. But there are two critical differences.

First, fee-and-dividend would turn the proceeds of these higher energy costs over to the American public to spend as they wish, rather than to corporate emitters to fatten their bottom lines or to Washington lawmakers to lavish on pet projects. Under fee-and-dividend, each and every American would receive a monthly check, which for most people would offset the higher energy prices caused by the fee.

The other difference is a bit technical but is just as key. Under a cap, the price on carbon would be murky, since it would be set in a vast trading market and determined by fluctuating factors like the economic growth rate, consumer and producer price elasticities and hedge bets by speculators. With the carbon fee, the carbon price would be set up front and its rising trajectory known in advance, allowing consumers and entrepreneurs to bank on the future value of saving energy. The price incentive to move away from carbon-emitting fossil fuels would penetrate every crevice of the economy, ensuring that few if any opportunities to reduce climate-changing emissions were left on the table.

Fee-and-dividend is superior to cap-and-trade on grounds of both political appeal and economic efficiency. Here’s how James Hansen, the nation’s pre-eminent climate scientist, contrasted the two approaches in an op-ed in the New York Times last December:

Consider the perverse effect cap and trade has on altruistic actions. Say you decide to buy a small, high-efficiency car. That reduces your emissions, but not your country’s. Instead it allows somebody else to buy a bigger SUV—because the total emissions are set by the cap. In a fee-and-dividend system, every action to reduce emissions—and to keep reducing emissions—would be rewarded. Indeed, knowing that you were saving money by buying a small car might inspire your neighbor to follow suit. Popular demand for efficient vehicles could drive gas-guzzlers off the market. Such snowballing effects could speed us toward a pollution-free world.

Hansen’s example applies equally to renewable energy. Under a cap system, a wind farm, no less than his efficient auto, will lower the price for carbon emission permits, thus undermining the price incentive for other actions that would reduce emissions. In contrast, a carbon fee is immune to this effect, since individual actions have no effect on the legislated carbon price.

But can the environmental movement unite around cap-and-dividend?

For over a dozen years, since before the 1997 Kyoto climate summit, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pew Charitable Trust and other Big Green groups have been unshakably committed to cap-and-trade. Without bothering to consult grassroots activists or more maverick groups like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, Big Green anointed cap-and-trade as its climate mantra and forged a high-minded Beltway alliance with corporate giants like Exelon and GM.

The idea was to “put a price on carbon,” but in secret. Decision-makers at utilities and auto companies would use economic models to intuit the extent to which mandated declines in the amount of carbon emissions permitted by the cap over time would cause the prices of carbon permits (and, hence, fossil fuels) to rise, and would retool their power plants and products accordingly. But ordinary Americans, ponying up more for electricity and heat and gasoline, wouldn’t know that the declining cap was driving the higher prices.

That was the plan. Alas, though cap-and-trade had functioned well in a kind of pilot program involving electric utilities and acid rain, it wasn’t up to the job of transitioning the American economy from fossil fuels to energy efficiency and renewable sources. To manage that Herculean task in decades rather than centuries, the rising trajectory of fossil fuel prices must be not just steep but plainly visible to all—from the aircraft manufacturer weighing the use of costly exotic materials to raise fuel efficiency, to local officials wrestling with whether a new school should be built in town, near the bus stop and bike lane, or on the car-dependent outskirts. Millions of similar carbon-critical decisions, from the individual level of riding transit and switching light bulbs to the societal level of ensuring that those options are available, attractive and valorized, must be taken with full knowledge of those prices. A stealth price on carbon, one that’s lost in the noise of fluctuating prices and general inflation, won’t do the job.

The fate of the climate—and perhaps the viability of EDF, NRDC et al. as well—may now turn on the environmental lobby’s willingness to embrace the alternative that has been there all along: a revenue-neutral, steadily rising carbon fee, the proceeds from which would be redistributed to Americans via equal monthly dividends—or, in a variant favored by some economists, in which the regressive and anti-jobs payroll tax is phased out as carbon fee revenues ramp up.

A climate bill based on a revenue-neutral and rising carbon fee would not require a cap-and-trade market in carbon derivatives; would be transparent and hence less vulnerable to the K Street carve-outs that turned cap-and-trade bills into laughing stocks; could be imitated internationally (since carbon fees are fungible while carbon caps are not); and wouldn’t require a PhD in complexity to grasp. Indeed, one such bill, America’s Energy Security Trust Fund Act of 2009, sponsored by Connecticut Democrat John Larson, is all of twenty-one pages, versus upwards of 1,500 for the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that squeaked through the House last year and the similar Kerry-Lieberman bill that just died in the Senate. Yet the emission reductions under the Larson bill would be two to three times as great as those from Waxman-Markey.

A climate bill like the Larson bill would also honor a fundamental tenet of environmentalism: that the costs of pollution must be internalized into the price of the activities that cause it.

We can drive emissions reductions throughout the economy while protecting Americans’ pocketbooks if we reframe the climate debate. Cap-and-trade is dead, and not a moment too soon. With its simplicity, its transparency and its economic rewards for everyone but die-hard polluters, fee-and-dividend could be a political winner. If environmentalists and others who care about averting climate catastrophe can unite around this approach, the public is ready to be convinced and, one hopes, mobilized. And, as two centuries of struggle for racial, labor and gender justice should have taught us, a mobilized public is essential to winning the climate battle.

http://www.thenation.com/senate-climate-bill-dies-does-environment-win

Methane, U.S. Congress & the “well-funded so-called “environmental” groups like EDF and NRDC that have been seduced into the gospel of endless compromise” …

Published on Monday, July 19, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

Methane Seeps, Tipping Points Feared as Congress Sleepwalks

Dangerous Methane Seeping from Siberian Seabeds

by Gary Houser

“Methane is leaking from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf into the atmosphere at an alarming rate… Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming.”
National Science Foundation press release (March 4, 2010)

As the U.S. Senate finally prepares to bring climate-related legislation to the floor, it has become painfully obvious that the most crucial ingredient in any such debate – a true sense of urgency – is completely absent. Despite the fact that all future life on the planet hangs in the balance and a point of irreversible runaway warming is being rapidly approached, the Senate is proceeding as if it is sleepwalking in a stupor. It has allowed the fossil fuel industry to sabotage all effort at meaningful carbon emission reductions, and will only be considering legislation that is woefully inadequate to prevent catastrophe.

Those who follow this issue likely have familiarity with the concept of “tipping points”. This innocuous-sounding phrase does not do justice to its vast meaning. It refers to the crossing of a line whereby tremendous natural forces are unleashed and an unstoppable rush of interlocking climate disruptions wreak havoc on the earth and its fragile web of life-supporting ecosystems. Once set in motion, it cannot be predicted how far the devastation would extend. Geological records have linked a severe climate shift with the “Great Extinction” event which wiped out a ghastly 90% of all life forms on the planet.

Serving as a direct counterpoint to this disastrous “disconnect” from reality in the Senate is the stunning news that these tipping points may be much closer than previously imagined. Ignored by mainstream media, recent scientific findings have the potential to turn the world as we know it upside down. Situated off the Siberian coast – in an area containing more carbon than that known to exist in all the world’s oil, coal, and natural gas reserves – is the climate threat of all climate threats. Some call it the “Arctic super carbon pool”. Others call it a “methane time bomb”. The reason for this ominous latter description is the quite real threat of an unstoppable chain reaction which could release much or all of this tremendous stockpile. This is a nightmare scenario feared by many tracking the evolution of the climate emergency.

Methane is a particularly powerful greenhouse gas, at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Once the methane – currently in frozen form – begins to thaw and release gas, it either oxidizes in the water or travels to the surface and enters the atmosphere. If the latter occurs, it can act as a strong warming agent and therefore cause even more of the frozen methane to thaw and release gas. The scientific term for this self-perpetuating cycle is “reinforcing feedback”.

The “conventional wisdom” was that this thawing and venting of methane would not manifest for at least 100 years. But as the case has been with much such “wisdom” these days, scientists have encountered great difficulty in accurately predicting the full consequences of the unprecedented alterations being imposed on the planet by greenhouse gases. The reality of climate disruption has continued to outpace the projections. Recent studies of the Siberian methane show that a very serious amount is already venting to the atmosphere.

In their report (summarized in Chapter 6), researchers Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov describe that methane is now being released across a full 50% of a quite sizable study area in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. Based on 5100 seawater samples taken from 1080 different locations, they report that 80% of the bottom water and 50% of the surface water is “super-saturated” with methane. Adding to the seriousness is the fact that this methane is not oxidizing in the water. Due to the shallow depths of these seabeds, the methane is traveling directly to the surface and venting into the atmosphere.

Methane is a volatile gas that rapidly expands in volume as it releases. Referring to the giant stockpile in this arctic shelf, Shakhova and Semiletov warn that it is “highly possible for abrupt release at any time. That may cause a 12 time increase of modern atmospheric methane burden with consequent catastrophic greenhouse warming.” As if this information is not unsettling enough, one then encounters the following staggering fact. This entire scenario is being played out in the most rapidly warming geographic location on the planet: “The Arctic is warming more quickly than the rest of the world, and this warming is most pronounced in the arctic shelf.”

Given the potential for such a catastrophic event and with so many factors lining up that could indeed release the trigger, one would expect the collective scientific community to issue a grave warning to the world. If ever there was a time to exercise the precautionary principle, it would be now. Stunningly, the scientific community is failing to do so. Instead, in a classic exhibition of ivory tower disconnectedness – perhaps in combination with a hesitancy brought on by the aggressive attacks of deniers – it is calling for more definitive “proof” that the thawing of methane is directly related to human-generated warming and not being caused by other natural sources.

The stupendously dangerous flaw in this reaction is that by the time such proof is “definitively gathered”, it could well be too late to stop the runaway chain reaction. In a situation where we may already be too late, it is the height of irresponsibility to argue for even more delay. If a blind person appears to be walking toward a cliff and is only three steps away, does a responsible observer guide that person away from the edge or stand back and wait for more proof? In this case, the blind person is all of humanity. The world needs every precious moment it can find to move back from the precipice.

Because of time consumed to document and verify, IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports and projections have been lagging at least two or three years behind what is actually happening in real life. With the thawing of sea-based methane already having been miscalculated, this looming threat that a “methane time bomb” is on the verge of being activated (if indeed it has not already occurred) is only beginning to be addressed by climate modelling and IPCC studies.

The scientific community must immediately ramp up its effort and mobilize whatever resources are needed to either confirm or disprove that this activation is occurring. Even as such effort proceeds, however, it has an immediate and transcendent moral responsibility to issue a strong warning to both policy makers and the public about what is at risk. Testimony to Congress by the National Academy of Sciences that climate disruption is real and human-caused is valuable, but in the current context too measured and mild. It does not convey that humanity is truly perched on a precipice overlooking an abyss. It does not begin to do justice to the monumental urgency of the crisis we are in, how humanity is on the verge of unleashing a beast it will not be able to control.

Why are there so few climate scientists willing to stand beside Jim Hansen and truly speak from their consciences about the disaster that is unfolding? Some say that policy must be left to the policy makers. But it is now obvious that legislation being discussed in Congress is completely out of touch with the scientific reality. The two primary bills – Waxman-Markey and Kerry-Lieberman – were already allowing the industry to stonewall (pdf) actual carbon emission reductions for 15 to 20 years. Now the Senate is capitulating even further. Such a delay would all but guarantee the crossing of tipping points.

We have reached physical limits that cannot be “negotiated” away. Those who have lost their way in the “inside-the-beltway world” of political horse-trading must be brought to recognize this reality before it is too late. This indictment applies not only to the politicians but also the large, well-funded so-called “environmental” groups like EDF and NRDC that have been seduced into the gospel of endless compromise. The passage of such weak and inadequate legislation would constitute a massive triple failure of the scientific community, the mainstream environmental groups, and Congress.

If the scientific community was to empower itself at this time of global emergency and somehow find the much stronger and louder voice that is needed, there is a hope that at least a few members of the Senatemight actually become emboldened to regain their own courage and stand up to the monied interests that have hijacked this legislation. Such legislation could yet become transformed into a saving grace for humanity rather than an unspeakably tragic abdication of moral responsibility.

The “motherlode” of earth’s stockpile of carbon exists on the shallow seabeds off the Siberian coast, for all practical purposes a veritable doomsday beast ready to rise in retribution for humanity’s abuse of the earth and its Faustian bargain with the dark gods of oil and coal. Extremely volatile, it is the same gas believed to have entered both the oil rig in the Gulf and coal mine in West Virginia causing destructive explosions. Some might interpret this as a warning to humanity.

Methane has been found to be thawing and releasing to the surface in 50 percent of a large study area. In a location that is “warming more quickly than the rest of the world”, the release of only one half of one percent of this stockpile has been determined to be capable of causing “abrupt climate change”. If this most feared “feedback” of all – the one which humanity would likely be helpless to stop once activated – has not already started, then it certainly appears that all the factors necessary to trigger it are lining up.

One day, the public release of these findings may hold great significance. It might be seen as the time when at least a handful of scientists tried to warn about the coming disaster. This time might be celebrated as the beginning of the great “wake-up” in which the scientific community spoke out in a unified and bold voice, both policy makers and mainstream enviros re-discovered their backbone, and the cataclysm was avoided. But based on current reality, it may well turn into a time for lamentation. Those clinging for survival in a world ravaged by climate catastrophe may look back with anger and an acute sense of betrayal about the passivity and the silence of those who could have made a difference and mourn the indefensible failure to act while there was still time.

Gary Houser is a public interest writer/columnist, anti-coal campaigner, green energy advocate, and activist with Climate SOS (www.climatesos.org) based in Ohio. He is also seeking support for a broadcast quality documentary on the “methane time bomb”.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/07/19-4

Big Green’s pursuit of carbon cap-and-trade in the U.S. branded the climate movement as servants of Wall Street Elites

Published on Tuesday, July 27, 2010 by Carbon Tax Center

Can Viable Carbon Tax Arise from the Senate’s Ashes?

by Charles Komanoff

And now, ve may begin?

Readers of a certain age, and a certain literary bent, will recognize the words of Alexander Portnoy’s psychiatrist, spoken at the close of Philip Roth’s transgressive 1969 novel, Portnoy’s Complaint.

After lo these many years, they popped into my head last week as I read that Senate Democrats had finally thrown in the towel on an energy bill that would have included a partial cap-and-trade provision for limiting carbon emissions from power plants. The bill, written by Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, was touted by Washington insiders and some major environmental groups as this year’s last hope for federal climate legislation. Yet it would have relied on carbon offsets and other dodges to postpone the day of reckoning with true, visible carbon emissions pricing – the cornerstone of meaningful climate policy.

Instead, reported the New York Times, Senate Democrats will pursue a limited bill aimed at increasing oversight of oil drilling and tightening energy efficiency standards – with no direct assault on climate-destabilizing CO2. (For a later Times story amplifying the first, click here.)

Yes, now, we may begin – “we” being Americans who care about climate, sustainability, and Earth – to unite around a climate approach that is effective, equitable and transparent enough to win the support of our fellow citizens and a Congressional majority.

I’m referring of course to the idea advanced by climatologist Jim Hansen as fee-and-dividend and by the Carbon Tax Center as a revenue-neutral carbon tax, by which fossil fuel extractors and importers pay the U.S. Treasury fees pegged to the carbon content of the coal, oil and gas they take from the ground or bring into U.S. ports, and the Treasury distributes the revenues to all Americans via equal monthly dividends (“green checks”), or by tax-shifting from regressive taxes such as payroll taxes.

The Senate’s antipathy to even the partial cap-and-trade proposed by Sen. Kerry will doubtless be spun as indicating that for the foreseeable future the well for climate legislation has been poisoned. The Carbon Tax Center says that the opposite may be true: with cap-and-trade out of the way at last, the political well can begin to be de-toxified so that the effective, equitable and transparent carbon fee-and-dividend can be seriously considered.

For this to happen, however, the Big Green groups like EDF and NRDC that for years have dominated climate discourse among environmentalists, and that convinced Congressional Democrats and the White House that the only way to “put a price on carbon” in America was via carbon cap-and-trade, will have to abandon that approach and allow others, and themselves, to try a fresh start.

It will be said that cap-and-trade failed because Fox News and other climate deniers branded it as “cap-and-tax” and, therefore, a carbon tax (or fee) cannot possibly succeed. And it is true that carbon cap-and-trade was looked to, years ago, as a way to build on the success of acid rain cap-and-trade, win over Republican free-marketers, and put a price on carbon without having to parade the dreaded t-a-x word before the public.

In the event, though, carbon cap-and-trade did none of these things.

Instead, Big Green’s pursuit of carbon cap-and-trade tethered the climate movement to complex financial instruments and branded us as servants of Wall Street elites. It opened the legislative floodgates to off-the-charts Beltway deal-making that rightly repulsed the public. Perhaps most importantly, the co-optation of climate advocacy by the cap-and-traders robbed us of the high moral ground we might have shared with abolitionists, suffragists, labor agitators and civil rights workers – true American heroes who fought to liberate our society of oppression and injustice.

If you’re in the climate movement, you recognize that fossil fuels’ assault on Earth’s climate is an ultimate form of oppression and injustice: of rich against poor, of the profligate against the frugal, of the present against the future. Ending this assault will require concerted action on many fronts; and it starts by internalizing the climate-damage costs of coal, oil and gas into their prices, so that the free ride for fossil fuels is ended and all of the alternatives, from energy efficiency, renewable energy and low-carbon fuels to conservation-based behavior and mindfulness toward energy consumption, may compete fairly and effectively.

Political action to accomplish this must be done in bright sunlight, not in Beltway shadows.

Cap-and-trade, let us hope, is dead. And now, we may begin!

© 2010 Carbon Tax Center

Charles Komanoff is co-founder of the Carbon Tax Center.

https://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/07/27-5

ENVIROS CRAFT POLITICAL SUICIDE PACT FOR U.S. DEMSOCRATS ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Note: Any politically sentient being should understand that if the strategy suggested below prevails, Democrats will have given Republicans a sword through which it will be even more possible for Republicans to capture Congress. Such a strategy, as suggested below, would allow Republicans to attack Democrats through the rest of the year and certainly into the elections saying that Democrats are plotting to pass cap and trade in a lame duck Congress. While, in truth, there are not and will not be the votes to do that, it will unecessarily provide Republicans with such powerful ammo, that Republican pollsters will likely consider sending the Democratic leaders, and their politcally inept environmental group enablers, a big thank you card after the elections. One can only hope that sanity will prevail.

Environmentalists are pressing Biden and President Barack Obama to amp up their whip operations to give the legislation a chance of passing Congress this year. But one source from a major advocacy group said Wednesday that another option is for the Senate to pass a pared back energy measure now and then go to conference during a lame-duck session with the House-passed climate bill that includes greenhouse gas limits across multiple sectors of the economy. At that point, the source said, anything is possible.

Leaders from the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council are scheduled to meet later Wednesday to map out strategy with Reid, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Caucus Vice-Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

POLITICO

Dems divided on energy bill
By: Darren Samuelsohn and Coral Davenport
July 21, 2010

Senate Democrats are increasingly divided over whether to move forward on any energy and climate bill in the coming weeks.

On one side are those who say it’s too late to move even a modest energy measure, and are urging colleagues to abandon their efforts and bring up a small package of offshore drilling reforms next week before heading home.

On the other are ardent liberals, who are mounting a last-ditch campaign to push through an ambitious climate bill with a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

For months, many moderates in the caucus have said that trying to move a climate bill that caps carbon was a bridge too far for this Congress, and they have urged dropping the cap in favor of a modest “energy-only” bill that ramps up renewable energy.

But at a caucus meeting of Senate Democrats on Tuesday, the prevailing feeling was that even that measure doesn’t stand a chance, say people familiar with the meeting. “The meeting mood wasn’t exactly excited about the prospect of doing climate and energy next week,” said one source familiar with it, who also said “not to expect anything but a spill bill.”

West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller said the reason for the mood is a growing expectation that Republicans will block any legislation that’s brought up. “We didn’t discuss [energy and climate] at all at the chairman’s meeting. And that should stun you,” Rockefeller told POLITICO on Wednesday. “We’re trying to figure out, can we do anything? Can we pass anything? Because their idea is they’re going to stop all legislation.”

But advocates of passing a climate bill aren’t backing down – particularly the leading champion for the legislation, Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, who told POLITICO on Wednesday that he will keep plugging away so long as Congress is in session.

“No, it’s not dead because we’re going to have a lame-duck session and we have weeks ahead of us,” Kerry said. “And the issue is not going away as I’ve said 100,000 times. So it’s not dead at all.”

Kerry got fresh backing Wednesday afternoon from a cohort of twelve liberal Democrats, who wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid demanding that any energy and climate legislation to be considered in the coming weeks include a cap on carbon emissions.

“ The single most important action we can take to reform our energy policy and make the United States a leader in the global clean energy economy is to make polluters pay for the pollution they emit,” the letter said. “President Obama has consistently called for establishing a price on carbon as part of any comprehensive clean energy legislation Congress passes.”

Democrats are expected to caucus again on Thursday to determine a path forward on a bill, which Reid hopes to bring to the floor next Monday. Democratic leadership aides said Wednesday that there may be a White House presence at Thursday’s meeting.

Kerry and his partner, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), expressed concern Tuesday about the bill’s prospects of reaching the floor before the August recess as electric utility companies press for more time to negotiate complicated provisions of a bill that places limits on their emissions before any other major industrial sector.
Reid had been aiming to release the energy and climate legislation ahead of a floor debate next week, but that schedule appears to be in jeopardy now because of difficulty in finding 60 votes on the carbon pricing piece and the utility industry’s pleadings for more time.

Still, Kerry on Wednesday said he wasn’t ready to rule out action next week. “I don’t even think that is out of the question,” he said. “We have to see where we are on utilities and we have to see where Harry wants to land.”

“Obviously, the clock is pressing on it,” Kerry added.

Kerry met Wednesday morning for breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden where the energy and climate issue came up only “marginally,” Kerry said. Instead, the meeting was mostly about foreign policy.

Environmentalists are pressing Biden and President Barack Obama to amp up their whip operations to give the legislation a chance of passing Congress this year. But one source from a major advocacy group said Wednesday that another option is for the Senate to pass a pared back energy measure now and then go to conference during a lame-duck session with the House-passed climate bill that includes greenhouse gas limits across multiple sectors of the economy. At that point, the source said, anything is possible.

Leaders from the Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council are scheduled to meet later Wednesday to map out strategy with Reid, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Caucus Vice-Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Kerry and Lieberman said they will continue to work with the electric utility industry after meeting with several top CEOs on Tuesday. The power plant executives also met Tuesday with White House energy and climate adviser Carol Browner.

For now, prospects for the electric utility provisions remain uncertain in the Senate as both moderate Democrats and Republicans say they’re skeptical an agreement can be reached any time soon.

“There is a way in which you could build consensus,” Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said on Tuesday. “But whether that can be part of any base energy bill really is highly questionable, I’d expect, because it’d be hard to build consensus on that particular question.”

Snowe said Democrats should consider offering the power plant-first proposal as an amendment to an energy bill, rather than place it in the underlying legislation. But Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio), who will unveil a bill later Wednesday to promote nuclear power, said there is no shot of a climate bill with carbon limits passing this year.

“This is going through the motions to satisfy your conference,” he said on Tuesday. “Anybody that’s being intellectually honest has got to say there’s no time to get anything done on climate.”

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0710/40018.html

Climate Activist Begins Vigil Outside EDF Offices over Kerry-Lieberman | Environmental Defense

Climate Activist Begins Vigil Outside EDF Offices over Kerry-Lieberman

Published by Sparki, June 4th, 2010

environmental_offense2.jpg?w=300&h=225

Image from Rising Tide North America protest at EDF’s offices in Dec. 2008

LIEBERMAN SAYS ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENSE PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN CONSTRUCTING HIS CLIMATE BILL’S LANGUAGE:

SOS Activist Starting Vigil Outside Their DC Office

As Jim Hansen stated in an opening quote for the piece by Cory Morningstar and Gary Houser in Common Dreams : “Governments will not put young people and nature above special financial interests without great public pressure. Such pressure is not possible as long as big environmental organizations provide cover.

Environmental Defense (EDF) is front and center as spending big money to provide that cover. Their site now reveals they played a lead role in crafting all the giveaways in the dangerous facade of a bill called Kerry-Lieberman. Gary Houser of Climate SOS is now seeking support for an ongoing vigil outside the EDF office in DC. The goal is to expose EDF’s false, deceptive, and immoral claim to represent the “environmental community” (when in fact they are serving the interests of fossil fuel corporations) and the real damage it is inflicting on efforts to create a truly meaningful bill. Any potential supporters (including from the religious community) should be directed to Houser at: mountainmist4

Here are some choice direct quotes from an EDF webpage:

EDF played a critical, behind-the scenes role in constructing the Senate bill. In Senator Lieberman’s words: “We relied on EDF for big picture counseling, for strategic and tactical advice, and for the substantive legislative and modeling assistance that we needed so much.

Our litmus test for climate legislation is: Does it reduce emissions enough, and quickly enough?” said Krupp. “We believe the Senate bill will do that.

The Senate bill, like the House one, puts a declining cap on emissions from the largest sources of carbon pollution and aims to reduce emissions 17% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

[Comment:
Never mind that these are from a 2005 base rather than 1990, never mind that
there are enough loopholes to avoid ANY actual reductions for up to 20
years.]

EDF will go the extra mile for a strong climate bill…… Kerry and Lieberman appeared at EDF’s May board meeting in Washington ….

Link to EDF page on their key role in drafting Kerry-Lieberman bill.

Direct link to this post: http://itsgettinghotinhere.org/2010/06/04/lone-climate-activist-begins-vigil-outside-edf-offices-over-kerry-lieberman/#more-19516

Nature Conservancy’s ties to BP (+ Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Etc.)

Nature Conservancy faces potential backlash from ties with BP

By Joe Stephens

Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, May 23, 2010; 12:30 PM

In the days after the immensity of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico

became clear, some Nature Conservancy supporters took to the

organization’s web site to vent their anger.

“The first thing I did was sell my shares in BP, not wanting anything to

do with a company that is so careless,” wrote one. Another added: “I

would like to force all the BP executives, the secretaries and the

shareholders out to the shore to mop up oil and wash the birds.” Reagan

De Leon of Hawaii called for a boycott of “everything BP has their hands

in.”

What De Leon didn’t know was that the Nature Conservancy lists BP as one

of its business partners. The organization also has given BP a seat on

its International Leadership Council and has accepted nearly $10 million

in cash and land contributions from BP and affiliated corporations over

the years.

“Oh, wow,” De Leon said when told of the depth of the relationship

between the nonprofit she loves and the company she hates. “That’s kind

of disturbing.”

The Conservancy, already scrambling to shield oyster beds in the region

from the spill, now faces a different problem: a potential backlash as

its supporters learn that the giant oil company and the world’s largest

environmental organization long ago forged a relationship that has lent

BP an Earth-friendly image and helped the Conservancy pursue causes it

holds dear.

Indeed, the crude emanating from BP’s well threatens to befoul a number

of such alliances that have formed between energy conglomerates and

environmental non-profits. At least one conservation group acknowledges

that it is reassessing its ties to the oil company, with an eye toward

protecting its reputation.

“This is going to be a real test for charities such as the Nature

Conservancy,” said Dean Zerbe, a lawyer who investigated the

Conservancy’s relations with its donors when he worked for the Senate

Finance Committee. “This not only stains BP but, if they don’t respond

properly, it also stains those who have been benefiting from their money

and their support.”

Some purists believe environmental organizations should keep a healthy

distance from certain kinds of corporations, particularly those such as

BP, whose core mission poses risks to the environment. They argue that

the BP spill shows the downside to what they view as deals with the devil.

On the other side are self-described pragmatists, such as the

Conservancy, who see partnering with global corporations as the best way

to bring about large-scale change.

“Anyone serious about doing conservation in this region must engage

these companies, so they are not just part of the problem but so they

can be part of the effort to restore this incredible ecosystem,”

Conservancy Chief Executive Mark Tercek wrote on his group’s web site

after criticism from a Conservancy supporter

The Arlington-based Conservancy has made no secret of its relationship

with BP, just one of many it has forged with multi-national

corporations. The Conservancy’s web site identifies BP as a member of

its Leadership Council.

BP has been a major contributor to a Conservancy project aimed at

protecting Bolivian forests. In 2006, BP gave the organization 655 acres

in York County, Va., where a state wildlife management area is planned.

In Colorado and Wyoming, the Conservancy has worked with BP to limit

environmental damage from natural gas drilling.

Until recently, the Conservancy and other environmental groups worked

alongside BP in a coalition that lobbied Congress on climate change

issues. And an employee of BP Exploration serves as an unpaid

Conservancy trustee in Alaska.

“We are getting some important and very tangible outcomes as a result of

our work with the company,” said Conservancy spokesman Jim Petterson.

Reassessing Relationships

The Conservancy has long positioned itself as the leader of a

non-confrontational arm of the environmental movement, and that position

has helped the charity attract tens of millions of dollars a year in

contributions. A number have come from companies whose work takes a toll

on the environment, including those engaged in logging, homebuilding and

power generation.

Conservancy officials say their approach has allowed them to change

company practices from within, leverage the influence of the companies

and protect ecosystems that are under the companies’ control. They

stress that contributions from BP and other large corporations

constitute only a portion of the organization’s total revenue, which now

exceeds a half billion dollars a year.

And the Conservancy is far from the only environmental nonprofit with

ties to BP.

Conservation International has accepted $2 million in donations from BP

over the years and partnered with the company on a number of projects,

including one examining oil extraction methods. From 2000 to 2006, John

Browne, who was then BP’s chief executive, sat on the board of

Conservation International.

In response to the spill, executives at the nonprofit said they plan to

review the organization’s relationship with the company, said Justin

Ward, a Conservation International vice president.

“Reputational risk is on our minds,” Ward acknowledged.

The Environmental Defense Fund, which has a policy of not accepting

corporate donations, joined with BP, Shell International and other major

corporations to form the Partnership for Climate Action, which promotes

“market-based mechanisms” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

And about 20 energy and environmental groups, including the Conservancy,

the Sierra Club and Audubon, joined with BP Wind Energy to form the

American Wind and Wildlife Institute, which works to protect wildlife

through “responsible” development of wind farms.

A Rude Awakening

On May 1, Tercek posted a statement on the Conservancy’s site, writing

that it was “difficult to fathom the tragedy” that was unfolding but

adding that “now is not the time for ranting.” He didn’t make any

mention of BP.

Nate Swick, a blogger and dedicated bird watcher from Chapel Hill,

chastised Tercek on the site for not adequately disclosing the

Conservancy’s connections to BP and not working to hold the company

accountable. Swick said in an interview that he considered BP’s payments

to the organization to be an obvious attempt at “greenwashing” its image.

“You have to wonder whether the higher-ups in the Nature Conservancy are

pulling their punches,” said Swick, who admires the work the Conservancy

does in the field.

A Conservancy official quickly responded to Swick’s accusations, laying

out the organization’s ties with BP. A subsequent post by Tercek named

BP and said the spill demonstrated the need for a new energy policy that

would move the United States “away from our dependence on oil.”

“The oil industry is a major player in the Gulf,” he explained. “It

would be na?ve to ignore them.”

There may be a sense of d?j? vu among longtimers at the Conservancy.

Years ago, worried officials there quietly assembled focus groups and

found that most members saw a partnership with BP as “inappropriate.”

The 2001 study, obtained by The Washington Post, found that many

Conservancy members felt a relationship with an oil company was

“inherently incompatible.” And to a minority of members, accepting cash

from these types of companies was viewed as “the equivalent of a payoff.”

Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/23/AR2010052302164.html

Secret Deal | Conservationists to lobby for Santa Barbara offshore drilling

Conservationists to lobby for Santa Barbara offshore drilling

Deal features timetable to shut down operations

By NOAKI SCHWARTZ – Associated Press | Posted: April 7, 2010 8:17 pm | No Comments Posted | Print

SANTA BARBARA —- Conservation groups on Wednesday unveiled a new version of an unusual agreement in which they will lobby for an oil company’s expansion of drilling off the coast of California in exchange for definite end dates to its local petroleum operations.

The revision attempts to address criticisms of the original 2008 agreement by making its terms public, granting the state the right to enforce it and strengthening provisions to ensure an end to operations offshore from scenic Santa Barbara County.

A week after President Barack Obama moved to open many federal waters to drilling —- except along the West Coast —- local environmental groups accompanied by area political leaders unveiled the revised plan at Shoreline Park on a bluff overlooking the blue Pacific with oil rigs in the distance.

"The bottom line is this plan puts in place a timetable to end existing oil drilling off our coast and prevent any future drilling," said Rep. Lois Capps. "It’s transparent. It’s accountable. It’s smart."

The plan, which needs government approval, would allow Plains Exploration & Production of Houston to slant drill up to 30 new shafts from an existing platform in federal waters into a formation in state waters.

The company, known as PXP, would shut down existing oil production from three offshore platforms in nine years and a fourth platform in 14 years. It would also remove two onshore support and processing facilities and hundreds of acres of onshore oil wells.

The environmentalist parties to the deal essentially do not view the plan as new drilling because it would use the existing Platform Irene.

Currently, 27 platforms operate off the Central and Southern California coasts. They produced 13.3 million barrels of oil in 2009, a very small amount of the overall national production.

Environmental Defense Center attorney Linda Krop, who represents the environmental groups, said the revised agreement would allow the California attorney general to enforce its terms by making the state a third-party beneficiary.

Backers also pointed to provisions requiring PXP to surrender its federal oil leases to eliminate the possibility that the four platforms could continue to operate after the end dates, and to prevent PXP from being forced by the federal government to continue producing.

Under the deal, PXP would also have to give up any profits resulting from a violation of the end dates.

Addressing another concern, the backers said there are no title or other issues to prevent PXP from turning over 3,900 acres on shore to the Trust for Public Land.

Despite such changes, some conservationists continued to doubt the proposal.

State Coastal Commissioner Sara Wan, whose board may eventually have to weigh in on the plan, had yet to read the new agreement but wasn’t sure it could bind the state into defending the deal.

"There’s no way you can tell the government 15 years from now that it can’t change its mind and do what it wants to do," she said.

Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, who is running for state attorney general, said the agreement does not give the state any additional authority.

"Bottom line for me, in 2008 we were told that the deal was the deal of the century and it wasn’t," he said. "Why am I going to believe this one is any better than the last one?"

Richard Charter, energy consultant to Defenders of Wildlife, said that even though it is a local proposal, it threatens to open up the entire state coastline and is opposed by "most of the mainstream conservation community."

Word of the initial 2008 agreement stunned the wider environmentalist community because of the involvement of such vigorous petroleum foes as the group Get Oil Out!, which was spawned by outrage over a 1969 platform accident off Santa Barbara that fouled miles of ocean and beaches with wildlife-killing goo.

At first, the deal garnered support from national groups such as the Sierra Club, which later withdrew its backing amid concerns that the contract was confidential and not enforceable. Eventually more than 100 groups opposed it.

In addition to the then-private nature of the agreement, commissioners and other environmental groups also raised concerns that the end date may not be enforceable. Others worried that approving the project could inadvertently open up the entire California coastline to new drilling, ending a 40-year moratorium.

Criticism was further heaped on supporters of the initial agreement after it was leaked early this year.

It doesn’t outline how much the Environmental Defense Center is getting paid, but in the previous contract PXP agreed to pay the groups’ fees and out-of-pocket-costs, as well as $50,000 upfront and another $50,000 upon approval. In exchange, the environmental groups agreed to lobby in writing for the project and testify at public hearings before State Lands, Santa Barbara County and the California Coastal Commission.

In early 2009, the project was turned down during the public approval process at the State Lands Commission.

Since then, however, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has twice tried to revive the project, most recently with a proposal to use money generated from the drilling to fund state parks.

The State Lands Commission and California Coastal Commission would have to approve the agreement before it would take effect.

The Santa Barbara coast has some of California’s most distinctive ocean vistas, encompassing the isles of Channel Islands National Park.

Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider endorsed the revised local agreement.

"This plan will not only put a stop to existing oil operations, but will also help us stop new federal leasing by closing down and removing existing oil infrastructure," she said.

http://www.nctimes.com/news/state-and-regional/article_d9bc7392-739c-5c80-9b0f-8c0c7df7d32d.html

Earth Day, Paying Dues and Shades of Green

Published on Thursday, April 22, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

Earth Day, Paying Dues and Shades of Green

by Rachel Smolker

It’s Earth Day and oh how my heart aches.

Yesterday it came to my attention that Environmental Defense Fund, an organization my own father cofounded, is supporting the construction of several new coal plants in Texas! Environmental Defense is supposed to Defend the Environment as I understood it. Haven’t they heard James Hansen the climate scientist repeating ad nauseum his message that eliminating coal is the single most important step we can take to address global warming? Did they fail to even notice the noisy protest outside EPA offices a week or two ago, demanding that Lisa Jackson see firsthand the effects of mountaintop removal coal mining in Southern Appalachia that has resulted in clear-cutting thousands of acres of some of the world’s most biologically diverse forests, burying crucial headwaters streams (nearly 2000 miles already) and contaminating the groundwater with lead and mercury?

EDF’s Jim Marsten reassures us that these new coal plants will be “models” of “green-ness” because they will capture the CO2. Oh good…. Then they are going to use that CO2 for “enhanced oil recovery” — pumping it into nearby oil wells to create pressure that will push the last stubborn bits of oil out.

Hmmmm… burning coal and capturing the emissions to get more oil out of wells… Is that good for the environment, or a little less bad, or perhaps worse?

The plants will also waste less water. That’s good, I think.

But instead of using water to cool the plants, they will use fans run off electricity, which will require more coal burning.

They will also have to burn more coal because it turns out that capturing carbon and pumping it into the oil wells, requires a lot of energy.

So after we burn more coal in order to capture the carbon and cool the plant, what will happen to the more CO2 after it is pumped into the ground to squeeze out more oil? Will it leak out of the wells and into the sky in the end there to mingle with the CO2 from all the other coal burning, and enhanced oil recovery to wreak further havoc on earth? The Greenpeace report “False Hope” says CCS is unproven (a few demonstrations but not likely ready until 2030 at earliest), expensive (nearly doubling plant costs), energy intensive (using 10-40% of the energy produced), risky (CO2 could well leak out slowly or abruptly with severe consequences for human and ecosystem health and climate).

It’s hard to figure how EDF considers this a “victory” for the environment. Maybe board member Stanley Druckenmiller can explain it for us — he knows a few things about coal, what with 200 million shares in Massey Energy.

Massey Energy. They own the mine that exploded a week ago, killing 29 miners and they are responsible for blasting in Coal River next to the Brushy Fork impoundment containing 8.2 billion gallons of toxic slurry waste that, if it were to break, would obliterate an entire community. Somehow EDF’s Earth Day “victory” just doesn’t feel very inspirational. I think I can hear my father rolling over in his grave again.

Johann Hari’s recent piece in The Nation spelled out how the big greens have either prostituted themselves to corporate foundation funders, or become so paralyzed by the constraints on political feasibility within the DC beltway culture (again, a construct of corporate influence), that they have been rendered inert. Hari’s piece was followed by another recent article in Common Dreams by Gary Houser, who passionately implores the big greens to regrow their spines and actually BE green. Maybe that’s possible…

Or maybe it’s up to us once again. Just as the failure of Copenhagen stimulated the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth, going on now in Bolivia, perhaps we can light the fires of an alternative environmental movement in the U.S.. Real environmental groups abound — groups like Indigenous Environmental Network, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, WEACT, Energy Justice Network, Global Justice Ecology Project, Rising Tide and a host of others don’t have the big bucks, nor the “ties that bind” that come along with corporate sponsorship. Nor do they have the Big Green “branding” and name recognition. What they have is the guts and integrity to fight for what is right and to know green when they see it.

I know where my membership dues will go!

Let’s hope next Earth Day offers real reasons to celebrate.

Rachel Smolker is codirector of Biofuelwatch, and an organizer with Climate SOS. She has a Ph.D. in behavioral ecology from the University of Michigan and worked as a field biologist before turning to activism. She is the daughter of Environmental Defense Fund cofounder, Robert Smolker, and she engaged in direct action at EDF offices to oppose their advocacy for carbon trade. She has written on the topic of bioenergy, carbon trade and climate justice. She was arrested protesting outside the Chicago Climate Exchange in November as part of the Mobilization for Climate Justice day of actions, which she wrote about for CommonDreams.org.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/04/22-10