They Knew – They Lied: ExxonMobil and Climate Change

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They Knew, They Lied: ExxonMobil and Climate Change

By Daniel Ross, Truthout | Report

Between 1956 and 1964, Bell Laboratories produced a number of television specials titled “The Bell Laboratories Science Series.” The topics ranged from an examination of the Sun, to human blood, deep space, the mind, the nature of time and life itself. The programs were produced by Frank Capra, whose films include It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, so the production value of the series was notably superior. Even 30 years later, schools all across the US were still showing these Bell Labs films to students.

In 1958, a chapter in this series titled “The Unchained Goddess” was broadcast. The topic was the weather, and it starred Richard Carlson and a USC professor named Dr. Frank C. Baxter. At one point in the program, Carlson asked Dr. Baxter, “What would happen if we could change the course of the Gulf Stream, or the other great ocean currents, or warm up Hudson Bay with atomic furnaces?” The “atomic furnaces” bit is a quaint throwback to the atom-crazy 1950s, but the response given by Dr. Baxter is what makes this particular film notable.

“Extremely dangerous questions,” replied Dr. Baxter, “because with our present knowledge we have no idea what would happen. Even now, Man may be unwittingly changing the world’s climate through the waste products of his civilization. Due to our release, through factories and automobiles every year, of more than 6 billion tons of carbon dioxide – which helps air absorb heat from the Sun – our atmosphere seems to be getting warmer. It’s been calculated that a few degrees rise in the Earth’s temperature would melt the polar ice caps, and if this happens, an inland sea would fill a good portion of the Mississippi Valley. Tourists in glass-bottomed boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami through 150 feet of tropical water.”

Again, this was broadcast in 1958. The fact that climate concerns were being voiced almost 60 years ago is likely surprising to many, but the history and beginnings of the environmental movement in the US date even earlier. Ten years before, in 1948, the first piece of federal legislation to regulate water quality – the Federal Water Pollution Control Act – was passed. President Eisenhower spoke to the issue of air pollution, which had killed nearly 300 people in New York City two years earlier, in his 1955 State of the Union Address. That same year, the Air Pollution Control Act was passed.

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published, a watershed event many consider to be the official beginning of the environmental movement. In 1963, the Clean Air Act was passed. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb was published, which argued that the world’s pollution problems were due to overpopulation. In 1970, President Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency, and the first Earth Day protest – an event that included some 20 million people nationwide, then the largest protest in US history – was held.

In 1974, the first detailed scientific research connecting chlorofluorocarbons to the depletion of the ozone layer was released, and was augmented two years later. In 1979, President Carter pledged to embark upon a program to ensure that the US would get 20 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2000. That same year, he installed solar panels on the White House, which President Reagan removed after he took office. Reagan, in his first year, slashed the EPA’s budget by more than half. In 1988, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established.

The struggle to identify, diagnose and deal with climate change has been ongoing for almost seventy years, involving presidents and scientists and millions of ordinary citizens who recognized the dangers inherent in a climate affected by our actions … which is what makes this report so thoroughly maddening.

ExxonMobil, it seems, was fully aware of the existence and dangers of global climate change as early as 1981, a fact revealed by a number of recently-released internal memos. The company was looking to exploit a massive natural gas field in Indonesia, but their pet in-house scientist warned against it, because the field was 70 percent carbon dioxide, and drilling for the gas would release the CO2, which would be dangerous to the environment.

For the next 27 years, despite knowing better, ExxonMobil spent millions of dollars to promote “scientists” and think tanks who worked hammer and tongs to promulgate the idea that climate change was a myth. Climate-deniers like Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics made mad bank by spraying scientific falsehoods into the polluted wind, thanks to the largesse of a number of energy corporations, including ExxonMobil.

They knew. They lied. They paid others to lie. They deranged the conversation, perverted bedrock science into a muddle of greed-inspired opinion-based nonsense, and maybe, or probably, humanity might have missed its window to fix all this because of the long delay they created in the name of profit.

Vast swaths of the US West, including Alaska most significantly, are on fire. Many parts of the world, including Europe, are boiling in unprecedented heat waves. California is basically out of water, with no relief to come in the foreseeable future. Half of Greenland’s ice sheet is now liquid. Pink salmon, mussels, oysters, clams and scallops are about to disappear from the menu because the oceans are turning to acid. Those oceans are rising 2.5 times faster than originally estimated. Fracking persists, tar sands oil extraction continues to scar the air and the sure-to-leak Keystone XL pipeline marches inexorably toward delivering poison to the world.

People have been working for nearly 70 years to warn us of the dangers inherent in fossil fuels and the unchecked release of CO2. Since 1981 at least, ExxonMobil and other energy interests have known what these dangers represent, but spent money hand over fist to obscure the truth in order to line their pockets.

The ocean is coming. Many very smart people have been warning us of this for seven decades. As for the people who bent their shoulders to the task of denying this inexorable tidal truth for so many years that could have been spent checking and averting this looming disaster, well … I hope their cash can act as a flotation device. They believe themselves to be so powerful, but the ocean brooks no challengers.

For the rest of us: the aftermath of lies. The tobacco companies tried this denial number, and it killed millions of people. The lies of ExxonMobil and the cohort of energy companies who paid through the nose to deny the damage they were doing may well have cashed the final check for life on Earth as we know it. They knew. They lied. How many will die for their profit margin? How many have died already?

Mind the tides. The brutal reality of consequences is coming up the beach.

Copyright, Truthout. Copyright, Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission

Great News! Lancashire slams the Fracking Door in Cameron’s Face

Slamming the Fracking Door in Lancashire

There has been a widespread campaign against the unpopular, uneconomical and dangerous proposed plans to extract gas from the earth by a process of fracking.

Cuadrilla, which is chaired by Lord Browne, had been searching for shale gas in Lancashire, and had suspended operations there in 2011 after its drilling was found to be the likely cause of tremors in Blackpool. Government plans were pursued against scientific advice.

Years of campaigning from environmentalists and an emergency petition this weekend signed this weekend by 65,000 have today resulted in  Lancashire councillors rejecting these proposals.

Greenpeace UK reports  

No  to Fracking

* BREAKING! Lancashire slams door on fracking! *

This was the scene just now outside Preston town hall, as residents celebrated a hard-fought victory against fracking company Cuadrilla, whose plans to drill for shale gas were defeated by a 9-3 vote at Lancashire County Council.

This is the result of years of local campaigning and over the weekend 65,000 of us signed Today our voices were heard.

Government has signed up to the potential of shale gas after it transformed energy policy in the United States, despite severe criticism from environmentalists

A major new scientific study has concluded that the controversial gas extraction technique known as fracking poses a “significant” risk to human health and British wildlife, and that an EU-wide moratorium should be implemented until widespread regulatory reform is undertaken.

The damning report by the CHEM Trust, the British charity that investigates the harm chemicals cause humans and wildlife, highlights serious shortcomings in the UK’s regulatory regime, which the report says will only get worse as the Government makes further budget cuts.

It also warns of severe risks to human health if the new Conservative government tries to fast-track fracking of shale gas across the UK. The “scale of commercial fracking” unleashed by the Government’s eagerness to exploit the technique “should not be underestimated”, it cautions.

It is clear that the main reason this policy has been pursued has been self interest of the Conservative party. The article. “They are corrupt to the fracking core” , was published two years ago, and a number of conflicts of interest were cited. 

Conflicts of interest

Lord Browne

The former BP boss is chairman of Cuadrilla, which is exploring for shale gas in Lancashire and West Sussex. He is lead “non-executive” across Government, meaning that he helps recruit other non-executives to Whitehall.

Baroness Hogg

The non-executive for the Treasury sits on the board of BG Group, which has significant shale gas assets in the United States.

Sam Laidlaw

The non-executive to the Transport Department is also chief executive of British Gas owner Centrica, which recently bought a 25 per cent stake in Cuadrilla’s most promising shale gas prospect.

Ben Moxham

A former executive at BP when Lord Browne was at the helm, he followed the peer to Riverstone Holdings, which owns 42 per cent of Cuadrilla. Moxham was energy adviser at No 10 but quit in May.

Lord Howell

George Osborne’s father-in-law is also president of the British Institute of Economics, whose backers include BP and BG Group.

 Lynton Crosby, Mr Cameron’s own aide, been linked to the fracking industry.

Opponents will continue to protest against fracking until it is shelved by this government and today’s News proves how effective these protests have been. Well done to everyone involved! The Labour opposition must demand total and permanent rejection of these proposals.

Regaining Real Power: An Energy Price Cap and Green Investment

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The Way Forward – An Energy Cap as well as Green Investment 

ENERGY 1324238293i2Fnxr

Ed Miliband’s welcome announcement at the Labour Party Conference to cap energy prices was a popular one with the electorate. Realisation of that caused alarm with Tories and energy companies -scare tactics threatening power shortages. Indeed, it is not just energy power they hold, and fear of losing control unnerves them. Ed has emphasised his belief in the green economy, and introducing the feed back tariff for solar power and micro-generation demonstrated that. 

This was rapidly cut back by the Coalition government, and their investment in fracking, and gas makes their self-interest very clear.

An energy cap and green investment policies could go a very long way to shifting that power back to the people. If this is followed by control of other utilities, transports, money and banking, we would be looking at a real recovery – that of Society. 

Our dependence on energy for our very survival is clear. What can be avoided is a perpetual dependence on privatized energy companies. We are imprisoned by fear of the collapse of society and the consequence has been wars in the Middle East. Ominously, British oil companies have unprecedented influence  of British military policies.

British oil companies are promoting a ‘fight against piracy’ to get a vast hidden military subsidy. In the process they have got an unprecedented amount of influence over UK military policies. Oil companies have talked up the risk from piracy to justify the use of Navy frigates, drones and helicopters to protect corporate oil assets in the seas. They have demanded increased spending on military hardware at a time of major public cutbacks. 

The media’s insistence that renewable energy would not satisfy our needs literally fuels the thirst for fossil fuels, and nuclear, while denying the dangers of climate change and nuclear contamination. The financial argument in favour of fossil and nuclear fuels is heavily biased, distorting political and public confidence in renewable energy. Why is George Osborne insisting on commitment to dirty, carbon producing gas-fuel for years to come? Ed Davey has been pressured by George Osborne to adopt gas or face deep cuts to any renewable subsidy. (Friends of the Earth, ) While cutting feed-in-tarriffs, the government prepared to invest in fracking and shale gas, with known dangers, and Lynton Crosby clearly has self-interest, yet Cameron refuses to address questions on this issue.

Evidence shows how energy companies manipulate markets, Libor style by fixing prices. (Guardian)

Michael Burke‘s recent article, was published by Socialist Economic Bulletin, and emphasises the need for green investment if there is to be a real change for British politics.

Capping Energy Prices and Green Investment are BOTH Required

“The announcement by Ed Miliband that Labour would temporarily cap energy prices is a welcome one. But the reaction to it reveals to deep-seated problems of the British economy and British politics.

  • According to Labour’s own (uncontested) research household energy bills have risen by 29% in 3 years. Therefore the pledge to cap prices rises for 20 months is really a very modest reform.
  • According to a campaign tool ‘Freezethatbill’ the average household has seen bills rise by £300 under the Tories and will save £112 a year from this policy. That would be an estimated saving of £160 in total.
  • The reaction to this moderate plan has been vociferous and extreme. Lurid headlines about the lights going out in Britain have been accompanied by open threats from the large energy companies to discontinue investment. SEB has long argued that the cause of the slump is an investment strike by private firms.
  • The energy companies threatened to make that an all-out strike in their sector.
  • The Tory energy secretary and a host of MPs immediately relayed the threats of the energy companies. This is hardly surprising given the very large donations those companies make to the Tory Party. The Tory Press did likewise.
  • However it cannot be argued that this was simply scaremongering, based on empty threats. It is already the case that the energy companies do not invest sufficiently, either in storage capacity or in renewables. The energy companies, especially those controlling energy reserves, have previously withheld supplies in order to push up prices. It was previously reported that in March this year the British economy was just half a day away from running out of gas. But the reality was that energy companies withheld available supplies, which drove up liquefied natural gas prices to 150p a therm, from 57p earlier in the year.

In pursuit of profits, the energy companies have been willing to collude in driving up prices, and endangering supply. They are able to do this, in part, because existing capacity is extremely limited and they are an oligopoly.

This is the real threat to Ed Miliband’s policy.

Clearly the price pledge is only relevant if wholesale energy prices are rising. Capping retail prices for business and household consumers while wholesale prices are rising can only lead to a profits squeeze. As a result the energy companies threaten that they will reduce their already inadequate level of investment, even while some of them have caved in on the temporary price freeze. This could lead to energy shortages and would end Ed Miliband’s much more ambitious goal of de-carbonising energy production by 2030.

The financial position is clear. Taking the shareholder payout from just British Gas, Centrica, Scottish & Southern Electricity and National Grid alone the current annual dividend is £3.4bn. Yet despite the imperative for investment in renewables, the level  of  investment has halved from already low levels over 3 years.

This private investment slump has been exacerbated by the withdrawal of state investment in the energy sector under this government. Private companies have proved incapable of providing the necessary investment for long-term projects over a prolonged period. They are simply unwilling to take the risk. Yet the current government has reduced its own investment in subsidies for renewables which reflects its commitment to the oil companies and in pursuit of the illusory benefits of fracking.

Ed Miliband’s policy of capping energy prices is very welcome. It makes a small contribution to softening the fall in living standards. But the extreme response to it highlights the complete unwillingness of the energy companies to provide the necessary investment in renewables and storage capacity. De-carbonisation and energy security require large-scale state-led investment. Instead dividend payouts to shareholders are at record levels. Faced with sabotage and threats from the energy companies, nationalisation is a necessary step that can lead to the investment that is imperatively required.”

Fracking Crazy

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FRACKING CRAZY
From Suzanne Kelsey
They are going to bring a gigantic drill
Down your quiet sleepy country lane
Cause a lot of upheaval and disruption
That could easily drive you all insane
They are going to do some fracking
Pump toxic chemicals to break up shale
With irreversible damage to the earth
And your beautiful hill and vale
They are going to shake the earth’s foundations
Make great cracks for goodness sake
Scaring you, your family and neighbours
By creating a frightening earth quake
They are going to pump in toxic chemicals
And make gallons of contaminated waste water
That could get into your domestic supply
And possibly harm your son or daughter
They are going to light naked flames of methane
This they most definitely cannot hide
For they will be many metres high
And dotted around the countryside
They are going to ignore renewable energy
That could make good use of wind and solar power
Instead create another greenhouse effect
Climate change happening each and every hour
They are going to cause environmental hazards
Releasing a harmful volatile compound
In the polluted air above you
And acid rain falling upon the ground
They are going to cause distress
Anger. opposition and fear
As they press on with this fracking boom
Large swathes of rural areas will simply disappear
They are going to think only about wealth not health
Because they know the price of everything
Sadly no one sees the hidden costs
They know the value of absolutely nothing.
© Suzi@frackingcrazy.org