People who take seriously the information that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is cvurrently at 390 ppm when science has stated that the tipping point (where catastrophic sea-level rise begins) is at 350 ppm, observe the current debate about oil – from academic institutional and state and national environmental groups’ divestment of holdings in fossil fuel firms to California’s governor, the Great Reflector’s jitterbugging on fracking the Monterey Shale Formation – and could notice that political hypocrisy is also a petroleum by-product.
Badlands Journal editorial board
Time for Big Green to Go Fossil Free
by Naomi Klein
The movement demanding that public interest institutions divest their holdings from fossil fuels is on a serious roll. At last count, there were active divestment campaigns on 305 campuses and in more than 100 US cities and states. The demand has spread to Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and Britain. And though officially launched just six months ago, the movement can already claim some provisional victories: four US colleges have announced their intention to divest their endowments from fossil fuel stocks and bonds, and in late April ten US cities made similar commitments, including San Francisco (Seattle came on board months ago).
There are still all kinds of details to work out to toughen up these pledges, but the speed with which this idea has spread makes it clear that there was some serious pent-up demand. To quote the mission statement of the Fossil Free movement: “If it is wrong to wreck the climate, then it is wrong to profit from that wreckage. We believe that educational and religious institutions, city and state governments, and other institutions that serve the public good should divest from fossil fuels.”
I am proud to have been part of the group at 350.org that worked with students and other partners to develop the Fossil Free campaign. But I now realize that an important target is missing from the list: the environmental organizations themselves.
"People are fed up with being told that the best way to fight climate change is to change their light bulbs and buy carbon offsets, while leaving the big polluters undisturbed. And they are raring to take the fight directly to the industry most
responsible for the climate crisis."
You can understand the oversight. Green groups raise mountains of cash every year on the promise that the funds will be spent on work that is attempting to prevent catastrophic global warming. Fossil fuel companies, on the other hand, are doing everything in their power to make the catastrophic inevitable. According to the Carbon Tracker Initiative in Britain (on whose impeccable research the divestment movement is based), the fossil fuel sector holds five times more carbon in its reserves than can be burned while still leaving us a good shot of limiting warming to 2 degrees Celsius. One would assume that green groups would want to make absolutely sure that the money they have raised in the name of saving the planet is not being invested in the companies whose business model requires cooking said planet, and which have been sabotaging all attempts at serious climate action for more than two decades.
But in some cases at least, that was a false assumption. Maybe that shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, since some of the most powerful and wealthiest environmental organizations have long behaved as if they had a stake in the oil and gas industry. They led the climate movement down various dead ends: carbon trading, carbon offsets, natural gas as a “bridge fuel”—what these policies all held in common is that they created the illusion of progress while allowing the fossil fuel companies to keep mining, drilling and fracking with abandon. We always knew that the groups pushing hardest for these false solutions took donations from, and formed corporate partnerships with, the big emitters. But this was explained away as an attempt at constructive engagement—using the power of the market to fix market failures.
Now it turns out that some green groups are literally part owners of the industry causing the crisis they are purportedly trying to solve. And the money the green groups have to play with is serious. The Nature Conservancy, for instance, has $1.4 billion in publicly traded securities, and boasts that its piggybank is “among the 100 largest endowments in the country.”
The Wildlife Conservation Society has a $377 million endowment, while the endowment of the World Wildlife Fund-US (WWF-US) is worth $195 million.
Let me be absolutely clear: plenty of green groups have managed to avoid this mess. Greenpeace, 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network, and a host of smaller organizations like Oil Change International and the Climate Reality
Project don’t have endowments and don’t invest in the stock market. They also either don’t take corporate donations or place such onerous restrictions on them that extractive industries are easily ruled out. Some of these groups own a few fossil fuel stocks, but only so that they can make trouble at shareholder meetings.
The Natural Resources Defense Council is halfway there. It has a $118 million endowment and, according to its accounting team, for direct investments “we specifically screen out extractive industries, fossil fuels, and other areas of the energy sector.” However, the NRDC continues to hold stocks in mutual funds and other mixed assets that do not screen for fossil fuels. (The Fossil Free campaign is calling on institutions to “divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years.”)
The purists will point out that no big green group is clean, since virtually every one takes money from foundations built on fossil fuel empires—foundations that continue to invest their endowments in fossil fuels today. It’s a fair point. Consider
the largest foundation of them all: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As of December 2012, it had at least $958.6 million—nearly a billion dollars—invested in just two oil giants: ExxonMobil and BP. The hypocrisy is staggering: a top
priority of the Gates Foundation has been supporting malaria research, a disease intimately linked to climate. Mosquitoes and malaria parasites can both thrive in warmer weather, and they are getting more and more of it. Does it really make sense to fight malaria while fueling one of the reasons it may be spreading more ferociously in some areas?
Clearly not. And it makes even less sense to raise money in the name of fighting climate change, only to invest that money in, say, ExxonMobil stocks. Yet that is precisely what some groups appear to be doing.
Conservation International, notorious for its partnerships with oil companies and other bad actors (the CEO of Northrop Grumman is on its board, for God’s sake), has close to $22 million invested in publicly traded securities and, according to a
spokesperson, “We do not have any explicit policy prohibiting investment in energy companies.” The same goes for the Ocean Conservancy, which has $14.4 million invested in publicly traded securities, including hundreds of thousands in “energy,” “materials” and “utilities” holdings. A spokesperson confirmed in writing that the organization does “not have an environmental or social screen investment policy.”
Neither organization would divulge how much of its holdings were in fossil fuel companies or release a list of its investments. But according to Dan Apfel, executive director of the Responsible Endowments Coalition, unless an institution
specifically directs its investment managers not to invest in fossil fuels, it will almost certainly hold some stock, simply because those stocks (including coal-burning utilities) make up about 13 percent of the US market, according to one standard index. “All investors are basically invested in fossil fuels,” says Apfel. “You can’t be an investor that is not invested in fossil fuels, unless you’ve actually worked very hard to ensure that you’re not.”
Another group that appears very far from divesting is the Wildlife Conservation Society. Its financial statement for fiscal year 2012 describes a subcategory of investments that includes “energy, mining, oil drilling, and agricultural businesses.”
How much of WCS’s $377 million endowment is being held in energy and drilling companies? It failed to provide that information despite repeated requests.
The WWF-US told me that it doesn’t invest directly in corporations—but it refused to answer questions about whether it applies environmental screens to its very sizable mixed-asset funds. The National Wildlife Federation Endowment used to apply environmental screens for its $25.7 million of investments in publicly traded securities, but now, according to a spokesperson, it tells its investment managers to “look for best-in-class companies who were implementing conservation, environmental and sustainable practices.” In other words, not a fossil fuel divestment policy.
Meanwhile, the Nature Conservancy—the richest of all the green groups—has at least $22.8 million invested in the energy sector, according to its 2012 financial statements. Along with WCS, TNC completely refused to answer any of my questions or provide any further details about its holdings or policies.
It would be a little surprising if TNC didn’t invest in fossil fuels, given its various other entanglements with the sector.
A small sample: in 2010, The Washington Post reported that TNC “has accepted nearly $10 million in cash and land contributions from BP and affiliated corporations”; it counts BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell among the members of its Business Council; Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, one of the largest US coal-burning utilities, sits on its board of directors; and it runs various conservation projects claiming to “offset” the carbon emissions of oil, gas and coal companies.
The divestment question is taking these groups off-guard because for decades they were able to make these kinds of deals with polluters and barely raise an eyebrow. But now, it appears, people are fed up with being told that the best way to fight
climate change is to change their light bulbs and buy carbon offsets, while leaving the big polluters undisturbed. And they are raring to take the fight directly to the industry most responsible for the climate crisis.
Hannah Jones, one of the organizers of the student divestment movement, told me, “Just as our college and university boards are failing us by not actively confronting the forces responsible for climate change, so are the big corporate green groups.
They have failed us by trying to preserve pristine pockets of the world while refusing to take on the powerful interests that are making the entire world unlivable for everyone.” But, she added, “students now know what communities facing extraction have known for decades: that this is a fight about power and money, and everyone—even the big green groups—is going to have to decide whether they are with us, or with the forces wrecking the planet.”
It doesn’t seem like too much to ask. I mean, if the city of Seattle is divesting, shouldn’t the WWF do the same? Shouldn’t environmental organizations be more concerned about the human and ecological risks posed by fossil fuel companies than they are by some imagined risks to their stock portfolios? Which raises another question: What are these groups doing hoarding so much money in the first place? If they believe their own scientists, this is the crucial decade to turn things around on climate. Is TNC planning to build a billion-dollar ark?
Some groups, thankfully, are rising to the challenge. A small but growing movement inside the funder world is pushing the big liberal foundations to get their investments in line with their stated missions—which means no more fossil fuels. It’s time for foundations to “own what you own,” says Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund. According to Dorsey, her foundation, which has been a major funder of the coal divestment campaign, is now “99 percent fossil free and will be completely divested by 2014."
But convincing the biggest foundations to divest will be slow, and the green groups—which are at least theoretically accountable to their members—should surely lead the way. Some are starting to do just that. The Sierra Club, for instance,
now has a clear policy against investing in, or taking money from, fossil fuel companies (it didn’t use to, which caused major controversy in the past). This is good news for the Sierra Club’s $15 million in investments in publicly traded
securities. However, its affiliated organization, the Sierra Club Foundation, has a much bigger portfolio—with $61.7 million invested—and it is still in the process of drafting a full divestment policy, according to Sierra Club executive director
Michael Brune. He stressed that “we are fully confident that we can get as good if not better returns from the emerging clean energy economy than we can from investing in the dirty fuels from the past.”
For a long time, forming partnerships with polluters was how the green groups proved they were serious. But the young people demanding divestment—as well as the grassroots groups fighting fossil fuels wherever they are mined, drilled, fracked, burned, piped or shipped—have a different definition of seriousness. They are serious about winning. And the message to Big Green is clear: cut your ties with the fossils, or become one yourself.
New technology propels 'old energy' boom …Jonathan Fahey, AP Energy Writer
NEW YORK -- Technology created an energy revolution over the past decade - just not the one we expected.
By now, cars were supposed to be running on fuel made from plant waste or algae - or powered by hydrogen or cheap batteries that burned nothing at all. Electricity would be generated with solar panels and wind turbines. When the sun didn't shine or the wind didn't blow, power would flow out of batteries the size of tractor-trailers.
Fossil fuels? They were going to be expensive and scarce, relics of an earlier, dirtier age.
But in the race to conquer energy technology, Old Energy is winning.
Oil companies big and small have used technology to find a bounty of oil and natural gas so large that worries about running out have melted away. New imaging technologies let drillers find oil and gas trapped miles underground and undersea. Oil rigs "walk" from one drill site to the next. And engineers in Houston use remote-controlled equipment to drill for gas in Pennsylvania.
P. Santilli AP - Graphic shows U.S. annual production of oil and natural gas
The result is an abundance that has put the United States on track to become the world's largest producer of oil and gas in a few years. As domestic production has soared, oil imports have fallen to a 17-year low, the U.S. government reported Thursday.
The gushers aren't limited to Texas, North Dakota and the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Overseas, enormous reserves have been found in East and West Africa, Australia, South America and the Mediterranean.
"Suddenly, out of nowhere, the world seems to be awash in hydrocarbons," says Michael Greenstone, an environmental economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The consequences are enormous. A looming energy crisis has turned into a boom. These additional fossil fuels are intensifying the threat to the earth's climate. And for renewable energy sources, the sunny forecast of last decade has turned overcast.
This is the story of how technological advances drove a revolution no one in the energy industry expected. One that is just beginning.
EXPLORING ENERGY FRONTIERS
The new century brought deep concerns the world's oil reserves were increasingly concentrated in the Middle East - and beginning to run out. Energy prices rose to record highs. Climate scientists showed that reliance on fossil fuels was causing troubling changes to the environment.
"The general belief was that the end of the oil era was at hand," says Daniel Yergin, an energy historian and author of "The Quest: Energy, Security and the Remaking of the Modern World."
As a result, Wall Street, Silicon Valley and governments were pouring money into new companies developing alternative forms of energy that promised to supply the world's needs without polluting.
Even oil and gas companies got in the game. BP had adopted the slogan "beyond petroleum" in 2000 and threw millions into its solar division. Shell partnered with another company to fire up a plant to convert agricultural waste into ethanol.
So strong was the lure of alternative energy that veterans of the oil patch began fleeing for startups.
In 23 years at Shell, David Aldous helped develop projections that showed a booming world population and rising energy demand. He also saw how hard it was for big oil companies to find enough oil every year to replace all they sold. He left Shell to join Range Fuels, a company that promised to turn wood chips into ethanol, in 2008.
"I felt we needed faster innovation," he says.
THE RACE FOR NEW TECHNOLOGY
But while the national focus was on alternatives, the oil and gas industry was innovating too. New technology allowed drillers to do two crucial things: find more places where oil and gas is hidden and bring it to the surface economically.
Large oil companies such as Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP turned up huge discoveries offshore in ultra-deep water with the help of better sensors and faster computers that allowed them to see once-hidden oil deposits.
Onshore, small drillers learned how to pull oil and gas out of previously inaccessible underground rock formations.
For most of the oil age, drillers have looked for large underground pools of oil and gas that were easy to tap. These pools had grown over millions of years as oil and gas oozed out of what is known as source rock. Source rock is a wide, thin layer of sedimentary rock - like frosting in the middle of a layer cake - that is interspersed with oil and gas.
An engineer named George Mitchell and his company, Mitchell Energy, spent years searching for a way to free natural gas from this source rock. He finally succeeded when he figured how to drill horizontally, into and then along a layer of source rock. That allowed him to access the gas throughout a layer of source rock with a single well. Then he used a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" to create tiny cracks in the rock that would allow natural gas to flow into and up the well.
The United States, which was facing a gas shortage five years ago, now has such enormous supplies it is looking to export the fuel in large volumes for the first time.
P. Santilli AP - Graphic shows U.S. annual production of oil and natural gas
The common wisdom in the industry was that the process Mitchell had invented for natural gas wouldn't work for oil. Oil molecules are bigger and stickier than gas molecules, so petroleum engineers believed it would be impossible to get them to flow from source rock, even if the rock were cracked by fracking. But Mark Papa, the CEO of a small oil and gas company called EOG Resources, didn't accept that.
"The numbers were too intriguing, the prize was so big," he remembered.
He thought there could be as much as a billion barrels of oil within reach in Texas, North Dakota and elsewhere - if only he could squeeze it out.
In 2003, he had a "eureka!" moment while poring over pictures of rock. Sections of a 40-foot-long column of source rock had been run through a CT scanner, the same type used to peer into the human body.
He saw something in the source rock sections the rest of the industry didn't know was there: a network of passageways big enough for oil molecules to pass through. Papa believed the passageways could act like rural roads for the oil to travel through. Fracking could then create superhighways for the oil to gather and feed into a pipe and up to the surface.
EOG began drilling test wells, and in 2005, Papa got some results from one in North Dakota that made him realize oil could flow fast enough to pay off.
"It was kind of like holy cow," he says. "My first thought was we need to replicate this, make sure it's not a freak result."
It wasn't. EOG snapped up land in a similar formation in South Texas known as the Eagle Ford Shale for $400 an acre when his competition thought it would never produce much oil. That land now goes for $30,000 per acre.
Papa thought the Eagle Ford might hold 500,000 barrels of oil. The Department of Energy now predicts it holds 3.4 billion. Some even expect 10 billion, which would make it the biggest oil field in U.S. history.
SMART DRILLS, RIGS THAT CAN WALK
But even after drillers figured out how to find oil and gas deep offshore and in onshore source rock, they still needed to develop technology that would make it economical.
At the tip of every oil or gas drill is a rotating mouth of sharp teeth that chews through rock. In the past, these drill bits could only dig straight down. Now they are agile enough to find and follow narrow horizontal seams of rock.
The drilling-services company Baker Hughes has designed a bit that can change directions underground, without having to be drawn back up to the surface, reducing drilling time by as much as 40 percent.
Behind the drill bit, attached to a long line of steel known as the "drill string," is an array of sensors. The sensors bombard rock with subatomic particles and measure the gamma radiation that bounces back. They assess how easily electricity flows through the rock and underground fluids. They analyze the magnetism of the rock and how it vibrates - both up and down and side to side - while drilling.
"To the layman, it looks like dumb iron, but you'd be shocked about what's inside," says Art Soucy, president of global products and services at Baker Hughes.
All this information is sent to engineers via fiber-optic cables. They run the information through supercomputers as powerful as 30,000 laptops to create a picture of the earth thousands of feet below the surface.
The people analyzing this data - and even directing the drill bits - are often sitting hundreds of miles away. Shell's Pennsylvania drilling operations are directed from a center in Houston, where experienced drillers monitor the progress at several sites across the country from a single room.
And when the drilling is done, the rig itself can "walk" a hundred feet or so to another location and start drilling again. In the past, rigs had to be taken down and reassembled, which could take days. New rigs are built on sliding "shoes" that allow hydraulic lifts to shuffle the rig forward in short steps.
"It has made possible things that were unthinkable 10 years ago," says Claudi Santiago, managing director at First Reserve Corp., a private-equity firm that invests in energy companies.
Now, drillers are finding oil faster than the world is using it. At the end of 2001, the industry had enough "proved oil reserves" to satisfy world demand for 45 years, according to BP's annual statistical review, a closely watched study. By the end of 2011 that had grown to 51 years - even though a decade's worth of oil had been used and daily demand had grown 14 percent. And "proved reserves" refers to oil that can be economically tapped using today's technology. Tomorrow's methods could yield even more.
This is good news for a global economy that remains dependent on fossil fuels, but it's terrifying to climate scientists.
"If we're willing to go down this road of squeezing whatever petroleum we can out of the earth, we can easily get carbon dioxide levels up to unfathomable levels and put in motion what would be dramatic or catastrophic changes in our climate system," says Michael E. Mann, a geophysicist and director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University.
RENEWABLES PROGRESS, BUT NOT FAST ENOUGH
Renewable technologies have had their successes. The average cost of a solar power system has fallen by 31 percent in the last two years. Solar now generates six times more electricity in the U.S. than it did a decade ago, and wind produces 14 times more. Most major automakers offer some type of electric vehicle.
And this success has come despite the fact that renewable energy's major benefit - that it doesn't pollute - is given little or no value in the marketplace because most governments haven't adopted taxes or penalties for fossil fuel pollution.
But the outlook for wind, batteries and biofuels is as dim as it's been in a decade. Global greenhouse gas agreements have fizzled. Dazzling discoveries have been made in laboratories, and some of these may yet develop into transformative products, but alternative energy technologies haven't become cheaper or more useful than fossil fuels.
Solar, wind and geothermal sources together accounted for 4.8 percent of U.S. power generation last year. Ten percent of U.S. gasoline demand was satisfied with corn ethanol, but ethanol and other fuels made from non-food sources have yet to hit the market.
"In many cases, renewables aren't ready for primetime yet," says George Biltz, vice president for energy and climate change at Dow Chemical, which continues to work on a host of renewable technologies.
Likewise, electric cars have not enjoyed the success many expected. The battery alone in an electric car costs as much as a new gasoline-powered car, and electric vehicles are not selling nearly as fast as once projected. General Motors expected to sell 60,000 Chevy Volts globally last year, but sold just half that many. Sales of Nissan's all-electric Leaf grew 22 percent around the world last year to 26,000, short of Nissan's projected 50 percent growth.
The cost of wind and solar power has declined, but the price of electricity made with newly cheap fossil fuels has fallen too, making it harder for wind and solar to compete.
"Renewables are now under scrutiny. They haven't made the kinds of quantum leaps we have seen in the oil and gas industry," says First Reserve Corp.'s Santiago, who now shuns investments in alternatives.
David Aldous, the former Shell executive, learned that lesson while trying to turn wood chips into ethanol at Range Fuels. The system that fed the chips into a gasification chamber didn't work well, and the project failed.
"Things don't always scale from the petri dish to the demo plant and then to the commercial plant. It's just part of building up a new industry," Aldous says.
Range went out of business in 2011, and it was hardly alone. Dozens of biofuel, battery and solar companies failed even though federal and state governments supported alternatives with loans and grants, and mandated their use. Others are limping along.
Pacific Ethanol, which traded near $300 per share in 2006, now trades for 28 cents. Amyris, an advanced biofuels company, traded near $34 a share as recently as last year, but now trades at $2.74. The battery maker A123 was forced to file for bankruptcy protection last year, three years after going public. An index of clean energy companies that was first traded in March 2005 is down 69 percent since then. A similar index of traditional energy companies is up 75 percent over the same period.
THE NEXT 10 YEARS
This dark period for alternative energy could last for years. With government debt soaring and no more worries about running out of oil, many renewable subsidies are being scaled back.
"The world is completely different now," MIT's Greenstone says.
But there are still hundreds of companies, including fossil fuel giants, working on new renewable-energy projects. ExxonMobil is investing in Synthetic Genomics, a company started by the geneticist J. Craig Venter to try to create strains of algae that will produce fuels. BP and Shell continue to work on ways to turn plant waste into fuels.
California, meanwhile, set the nation's most ambitious renewable energy goals and is on track to meet them. One-fifth of the power delivered by the state's three biggest utilities now comes from renewables, not including large hydroelectric dams. By 2020, that portion will rise to one-third.
President Barack Obama in March proposed using $2 billion in federal oil and gas royalties to invest in clean energy technology research. Obama is also expected to promote renewables through pollution regulations, if not with new laws.
And for all the world's newfound oil, prices are still high because developing nations are consuming more.
"It's not time to write the epitaph yet," Aldous says. Eventually the global economy will fully recover, he says, and demand for energy of all kinds will increase.
"New sources of energy are going to be in vogue again," he says.
Experts didn't see the oil and gas boom coming five years ago. It's certainly possible the world will change direction again in the next five years.
But EOG's Papa says oil and gas companies will just invest in even more sophisticated technology. He estimates that current techniques pull only 6 percent of the oil trapped in source rock to the surface. Learning to double that would yield yet another enormous trove of hydrocarbons.
"Now we go into the next phase of technology," he says. "How are we going to get the rest of it out of the ground?"
Court victory for opponents of fracking in California
Judge Rules Federal Agency Failed to Address Fracking Risks in Auctioning Off Monterey County Public Lands
Jenny Chang, (202) 213-3421, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brendan Cummings, (951) 768-8301, email@example.com
SAN JOSE, CA—Today, a federal judge has ruled that the Obama Administration violated the law when it issued oil leases in Monterey County, CA without considering the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. The ruling came in response to a suit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club, challenging a September 2011 decision by the federal Bureau of Land Management to auction off about 2,500 acres of land in southern Monterey County to oil companies.
“This important decision recognizes that fracking poses new, unique risks to California’s air, water, and wildlife that government agencies can’t ignore,” said Brendan Cummings, senior counsel at the Center, who argued the case for the plaintiffs. “This is a watershed moment — the first court opinion to find a federal lease sale invalid for failing to address the monumental dangers of fracking.”
Fracking employs huge volumes of water mixed with sand and toxic chemicals to blast open rock formations and extract oil and gas. The controversial technique is already being used in hundreds —perhaps thousands — of California oil and gas wells. Oil companies are aggressively trying to frack the Monterey Shale, which stretches from the northern San Joaquin Valley into Los Angeles County, and west to the coast. Extracting this oil will certainly require more fracking in California.
"Fracking for oil and gas is inherently a dirty and dangerous process that decimates entire landscapes,” said Michael Brune, Executor Director of the Sierra Club. "We know without a doubt that fracking will lead to increased use of fossil fuels at a time when we should be doing everything we can to keep dirty fuels in the ground and doubling down on clean energy."
Hydraulic fracturing, whether for oil or natural gas, has been tied to water and air pollution in other states, and releases huge quantities of methane, a dangerously potent greenhouse gas. Increased fracking threatens to unlock vast reserves of previously inaccessible fossil-fuel deposits that would contribute to global warming and bring us closer to climate disaster.
Fracking also routinely employs numerous toxic chemicals, including methanol, benzene, and trimenthylbenzene. A recent study from the Colorado School of Public Health found that fracking contributes to serious neurological and respiratory problems in people living near fracked wells, while putting them at higher risk of cancer at the same time.
“In an era of dangerous climate change, the Obama Administration should not sell off our public lands to be fracked for fossil fuel development that will only speed up global warming,” added Cummings. “We hope this court ruling acts as a wake-up call that steers the federal government away from sacrificing California’s public lands for dangerous oil development.”
The court has asked for a joint recommendation on next steps in the case. The Center and the Sierra Club believe the lease sale should be set aside. At a minimum, no drilling or fracking on the leases will be allowed before a thorough analysis of the environmental risks has been completed.
For a copy of the court's decision on the lawsuit, click here.
Los Angeles Times
ON POLITICS IN THE GOLDEN STATE
Jerry Brown blames climate change for state's early fire season
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown put the state’s early wildfire season in global terms Monday, saying the state would have to grow accustomed to more forest fires as a consequence of climate change.
Brown’s remarks at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s aviation management unit in Sacramento came as firefighters in Ventura County said they expected to have the 28,000-acre Springs fire fully contained by Tuesday. State firefighters have responded to about twice the average number of wildfires so far this year – more than 1,100 in all.
“Our climate is changing, the weather is becoming more intense,” Brown said in an airplane hangar filled with trucks, airplanes and helicopters used by the state to fight fires. “It’s going to cost a lot of money and a lot of lives.
“The big issue (is) how do we adapt,” Brown said ,“because it doesn’t look like the people who are in charge are going to do what it takes to really slow down this climate change, so we are going to have to adapt. And adapting is going to be very, very expensive.”
With the snowpack in the Sierra mountains at just 17% of normal, state officials are bracing for a long, destructive fire season. State Natural Resources Secretary John Laird, who joined Brown at Monday’s press conference, said he was preparing for “a deadly year.”
Cal Fire Director Ken Pimlott said more than 40,000 acres have burned in California this month alone. While the early fire season has become more common in Southern California, state officials officially opened the fire season in Northern California six weeks earlier than normal – just the fourth time in state history that has happened, he said.
'Fracking' debate pits science against ideology
By Dave Quast
Science and common sense, not ideology, needed in hydraulic fracturing discussion
Science and common sense are in a pitched battle against ideology here in California, where activists are pressuring state and local officials to ignore science and common sense and ban a hydraulic fracturing -- a safe and proven technology that’s been used to stimulate oil and gas wells all over the United States for more than six decades.
How do we know that the anti-fracturing activists are on the fringe? Because Gov. Jerry Brown – one of the nation’s most celebrated environmentalists and a man whose political career has been enthusiastically supported by for decades by groups like the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club – has flatly rejected activist calls for a halt to hydraulic fracturing in California. At a recentpress conference on renewable energy, Brown said he would not climb aboard the “ideological bandwagons” of anti-industry activists, and threw his support behind state oil and gas officials who are developing updated regulations that allow hydraulic fracturing to continue under tougher oversight and disclosure requirements.
But when a reporter asked Brown to respond directly to activist demands for a halt to hydraulic fracturing, the governor went a step further – he completely dismantled the arguments of the activists who falsely claim that cutting greenhouse gases and promoting renewable energy aren’t possible without an immediate end to domestic oil and gas production.
“Do you want to get the oil from Venezuela?” Brown asked. “We have 30 million vehicles in California. That’s a lot of oil. So I think we have room to supply our need even as we reduce oil consumption. We should be reducing it much faster than we are, and hopefully we can get some national policies to do that, but that still doesn’t mean that in the meantime there isn’t oil under the ground in California that can’t be made very useful.” Brown also noted: “We want to get the greenhouse gas emissions down, but we also want to keep our economy going. And that’s that balance that’s required.”
California has a proud tradition of environmental stewardship. We have also had a robust oil and gas industry going back more than a century. The fact that we have not experienced the environmental harms that the activists claim is a testament to the fact that we have achieved that “balance” to which the Governor refers.
In other states, producing energy from shale is creating jobs, spurring economic growth, and generating much-needed tax revenue for state and local governments. According to a recent study from the University of Southern California, our own state could see hundreds of thousands of jobs created and tens of billions of dollars in new revenue from the development of the Monterey Shale, which lies beneath much of the Central Valley. That’s incredibly good news for one of the hardest hit regions in the state.
Activists claim that fracturing is unsafe. However, scientists, state regulators, senior members of the Obama administration and many other authoritative sources have said for years that the technology is fundamentally safe.
For example, President Obama’s former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has described opposition to hydraulic fracturing as “hysteria,” because it “can be done safely and has been done safely hundreds of thousands of times.” The U.S. Department of Energy and the Ground Water Protection Council have concluded hydraulic fracturing is “safe and effective.” Mark Zoback, a Stanford geophysicist and senior adviser to the DOE, says hydraulic fracturing fluids “have not contaminated any water supply” and the technology poses a low earthquake risk because it releases about the same amount of seismic energy “as a gallon of milk falling off a kitchen counter.” Even President Obama himself has hailed the domestic energy production made possible by hydraulic fracturing and said “we can do it in an environmentally sound way.”
Governor Brown noted that any decisions that California regulators make will be “based on science, based on common sense, and based on a deliberative process that listens to people, but also wants to take advantage of the great opportunities we have in this state.”
Science and common sense. Those beat ideology every time