"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Big Oil’

Big Oil Uses U.S. Gov’t To Eliminate Threats To Drilling Plans, Research Supressed, Scientists Harassed, Terminated

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2015 at 3:27 pm

Source: Greenpeace

Oldspeak: “It is a systemic problem far beyond BOEMRE, It’s in all the agencies, the universities. It’s state and federal and a broad systemic problem in Alaska….There is an unwritten orthodoxy in Alaska, that dissenting opinions regarding unsustainable economic and political paradigms here need to be suppressed and silenced. Everybody knows that. There’s a very strong political dynamic where agencies and public institutions like the university are captured by the oil industry because it pays 95% of the state budget. Federal agencies bend over backwards for the oil industry and tend to marginalize voices that threaten that dynamic. If you criticize oil, you will have hell to pay… There aren’t very many dissenters. The whole point of making an example of me and Charles [Monnett] was to suppress people from doing that in the future. People have learned that if they want to keep their job and their pay check, and their pension and their benefits, they need to keep their head down.” –Dr. Rick Steiner, Professor, Marine Conservation

“In the context of this reality, in a maniacal ecocidal ever more destructive pursuit of profit, is there any wonder that Alaska is on fire as in no other time in recorded history? This is perfect example of the madness of Inverted Corptalitarian Kleptocracy begotten by Industrial Civilization. Corportate “persons” funding government education and research institutions and dictating what is and isn’t researched, published and disclosed. Important science and research censored, scientists abused, harassed and drummed out of jobs when their findings don’t serve the ends of polluters. Can we reasonably expect anything but politically mediated and watered down science and research from institutions in the unfortunate condition of being captured by the industries their findings affect? Not likely. “Profit Is Paramout”,  -OSJ.

Written By Kamil Ashan @ Alter Net:

In February 2011, Charles Monnett, an Arctic marine biologist who in 2006 published the first observations of a decline in the polar bear population of the Arctic due to melting sea ice, was interviewed by Eric May and Lynn Gibson from the Department of Interior’s Office of the Inspector General. The conversation was perplexing. May and Gibson, criminal investigators with the IG, began by suggesting that Monnett was being investigated for scientific misconduct, but early on in the conversation they admitted that neither of them had any training in science and biology.

From there, the transcript of the conversation, a document released by Monnett’s legal representation, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), becomes murkier. May and Gibson’s line of questioning shifts several times, making it increasingly unclear what aspects of misconduct were being investigated. Monnett explains that his findings, published in Polar Biology, were peer-reviewed; May responds by asking how Polar Biology got involved. Monnett painstakingly takes May and Gibson through the calculations and observations underlying his data, but they seem dissatisfied and change tacks.

What happened after isn’t murky at all. Soon after the interview, Dr. Monnett’s hard drive and notebooks were seized. In July 2011, Monnett found out from his employer, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), that he had been put been put on administrative leave, barring him from speaking to his colleagues or continuing his research.

The investigation had turned in to a virtual witch-hunt—but when the IG finally released its report toward the end of 2012, its only allegations were of an administrative nature. Monnett subsequently filed a whistleblower complaint against BOEMRE, alleging that the official harassment had impeded him from doing his job and that the Interior Department was violating its own scientific integrity policies intended to protect federal scientists from political interference. In November 2013, Monnett reached a $100,000 settlement with BOEMRE.

The tale of Dr. Monnett is now a few years old, but instructive. Both Monnett and PEER have maintained that Monnett was harassed and essentially eliminated from the ranks of BOEMRE because he represented a threat to the financial stakes of oil companies like Shell hoping to open up the Alaskan Arctic for offshore drilling projects, and that suppressing scientific research was seen as necessary for Shell’s permits to go through. At the time, BOEMRE had been reviewing Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic. It approved those permits in 2012, and again, in a highly contentious decision by the Obama administration, earlier this year.

Now, years after the debacle, Monnett says he has complex feelings about the dynamics of the science done in federal agencies, given how overbearing the oil industry is and its pervasive influence on the government.

The Bush administration, Monnett recalls, had “created an environment where the managers [of BOEMRE] were very hostile and aggressive towards some of the scientists…which led to a number of people leaving the agency. These people were being actively attacked by managers, screamed at in hallways, threatened with all sorts of actions. Some of them were even being threatened with legal action. The agency just wasn’t receptive to honest analysis.”

“Because of pressure from industry and the administration…certain timelines had to be met, and those timelines weren’t long enough to allow [scientists] to do complete analysis. Management was dictating the outcomes…which is against the law in my view.”

The Bush administration’s agenda from the very beginning was pro-drilling, and therefore invested in fast-tracking Shell’s permits for the Arctic. During the administration’s tenure, there was a mass exodus of scientists from BOEMRE—at the time known as the Minerals Management Service—who were under pressure to overlook the overwhelming environmental concerns of Arctic oil drilling in their analyses.

But Monnett’s investigation began in 2011, not during the Bush administration but during the Obama administration, foretelling Obama’s climate legacy of paying lip service to climate change while fast-tracking Shell’s offshore drilling plans all the same.

On Monday morning, President Obama arrived in Alaska to shed “a spotlight on what Alaskans in particular have come to know: climate change is one of the biggest threats we face, it is driven by human activity, and it is disrupting Americans’ lives right now.” The trip, mere weeks after the final approval for Shell’s summer plans to drill in the Chukchi Sea, is likely to be seen in retrospect as illustrative of the schizophrenic energy policy the Obama administration has long espoused.

The Limits of Academic Freedom

Scientific suppression and the loss of many scientists to BOEMRE during the Bush administration have been well-documented, but as Dr. Monnett’s case reveals, something similar, if not worse, has been underfoot during the current administration. As the case of Professor Rick Steiner demonstrates, the influence of oil goes well beyond federal agencies in Alaska.

A tenured professor of marine conservation at the University of Alaska, Steiner spent a large part of his career in the Arctic and then Anchorage, Alaska. Steiner had been a vocal opponent of offshore oil drilling since the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and a staunch defender of marine conservation—positions that got him in to trouble multiple times during his career.

In December 2007, soon after Monnett’s polar bear paper was published, there was a federal proposed rule to list polar bears under the Endangered Species Act. At the time, Gov. Sarah Palin publicly stated that Alaska state marine mammal biologists (ADFG) disagreed with the rule, but Steiner was unsatisfied. After much resistance from the ADFG, he obtained the state review through a federal Freedom of Information Act request. The review, underscoring the dishonesty of the Palin administration, showed that marine mammal scientists overwhelmingly agreed that polar bears should be classified as endangered. This move, and many others, put Steiner on the radar as a staunch advocate of marine conservation and opponent of the pervasive influence of the oil industry in Alaska.

In 2008, when the federal government began to consider an expansion of oil development projects in Alaska, Steiner continued to raise major environmental concerns. Written records released by PEER chart out what happened next: the University of Alaska and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration terminated the grant funding for Steiner’s research work. The documents demonstrate how pressure from NOAA led university officials to cut Steiner’s funding: federal officials wrote that they “had an issue with Steiner” and that his environmental advocacy could “cause problems nationally” for the agency. PEER called this one of the first instances where a university and federal agency admitted to removing a faculty member’s funding because of their environmental positions.

Steiner filed multiple internal grievance claims which were all rejected by the university, and in February 2010, Dr. Steiner resigned from the university faculty on principle. Soon after, he was told by a friend who had been in a meeting with university officials that oil executives had met with university officials, telling them point blank that as long as Steiner continued to oppose the oil industry, the university would not get a dime of its money. The University of Alaska, like many public institutions in Alaska, is funded largely by oil revenues.

Like Monnett, Steiner says his experience taught him the limits to academic and scientific freedom in a place like Alaska. “It is a systemic problem far beyond BOEMRE,” he explains. “It’s in all the agencies, the universities. It’s state and federal and a broad systemic problem in Alaska.

“[The University] felt I was being too much of an advocate for marine conservation which is in contradiction to their professed goal of being in favor of academic freedom.”

And indeed, the brazen nature of the university’s statements on Steiner’s case is deeply shocking. In the recommendation to cut Steiner’s funding, Dean Wiesenburg of the University of Alaska noted that Steiner “regularly takes strong public positions on issues of public debate.” Steiner, he said, “has chosen to be a maverick and work independently.”

To Steiner, what this means is clear. “There is an unwritten orthodoxy in Alaska,” he explains, “that dissenting opinions regarding unsustainable economic and political paradigms here need to be suppressed and silenced. Everybody knows that. There’s a very strong political dynamic where agencies and public institutions like the university are captured by the oil industry because it pays 95% of the state budget. Federal agencies bend over backwards for the oil industry and tend to marginalize voices that threaten that dynamic. If you criticize oil, you will have hell to pay.”

“There aren’t very many dissenters. The whole point of making an example of me and Charles [Monnett] was to suppress people from doing that in the future. People have learned that if they want to keep their job and their pay check, and their pension and their benefits, they need to keep their head down.”

A Handy Guide to Scientific Suppression

The cases of Charles Monnett and Rick Steiner have dire implications for how we view Shell’s offshore drilling plans in the Chukchi Sea this summer, and the lengths to which they went to acquire the permits. Much of this can only be guessed at. Steiner talks about the prevailing culture where federal agencies and universities begin to eliminate scientists who do not conform to the pro-oil agenda by not granting promotions or incentive awards, or giving them inadequate annual performance reviews. Another tactic, he says, is overwhelming staff scientists with trivial tasks, pulling them off projects for which they are qualified.

Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, an organization that seeks to protect scientist whistleblowers, can add to this list. “The range of things we see,” he says, “range from attempts to terminate, suspend, crippling internal investigations. In one case involving a lab director, the funding for his graduate students was jeopardized so he lost a lot of his research capacity. Preventing publications has no limits—in one case, a scientist was raising issues and her email privileges were taken away. We were left scratching our heads wondering how that could have happened.”

One possible remedy is scientific integrity policies that protect whistleblowers, but as Ruch explains, they are far from satisfactory. “Industry puts pressure on government agencies, and government agencies are the instrument of retaliation,” he explains. “For the most part, scientists have few legal protections. These scientists are not covered by whistleblower laws, because they’re not disclosing violations of law, fraud, or abuse. They’re disclosing suppression of research, or watering down of methodologies or the omission of key findings.”

“The law generally treats these as a matter of opinion and in these cases, the chain of command generally wins over the staff scientist.”

In his experience, Ruch says “scientific integrity policies operate within the Department of the Interior—those were weakened in December to make it even more difficult to sustain a complaint. Up until that time, there had been 2 instances out of 14 where the scientist involved faced multiple suspensions and the responsible managers escaped punishment altogether. It’s difficult to advise scientists in good conscience to file complaints under their own name because they’re unlikely to resolve in anything good.”

Early in 2009, Obama released a presidential directive to develop policies that restore scientific integrity to federal actions, including providing federal scientists better whistleblower protections. At the time, this was hailed as a huge leap in the right direction.

Ruch feels not much has changed. “The agencies in the Interior have largely ignored the presidential directive,” he explains. “Some policies claim protections but have no mechanisms by which that protection is implemented, which makes it empty protection.”

Environmental groups argue that this scientific suppression, and overlooking the enormous environmental risks, has been key to the Obama administration’s approval of Shell’s permits this year. Much of the information detailing the safety and reliability of Shell’s operations has not been released to the public, despite multiple FOIA requests by groups like Greenpeace and PEER. A recent FOIA request by PEER, directed at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), seeks to release information on how Shell’s plans for certified by third-party observers, as well as information on the deployment of capping stack and containment domes in the event of an oil spill. BSEE has not responded. PEER has now filed a lawsuit in a federal district court to bring these details to light.

As President Obama continues his trip in Alaska to highlight the dangers of climate change amid overwhelming opposition from environmental and indigenous groups, it begs big questions about the administration’s overarching legacy with federal scientists and the oil industry. Ruch feels strongly about this: “In terms of the actions inside these agencies, there has been no discernible difference between those under George Bush, who was an oil man, and Barack Obama, a constitutional law professor who when his own Commission on the Deepwater Horizon spill met with him, one of the very first questions he asked was about Arctic drilling.”

“It has been clear that Arctic drilling is part of the ‘all-the-above’ energy strategy and the same sort of suppression and the same suite of issues have never really been analyzed.”

For an administration pretending to conduct a dramatic push toward mitigating climate change, that is a shameful record.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

Kamil Ahsan is a freelance journalist and a doctoral student in developmental biology at the University of Chicago.

Propaganda, Self-Censorship & Climate Change

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2013 at 12:16 pm

https://i1.wp.com/i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01508/Climate-ChangeNEW_1508747a.jpgOldspeak: “The voices of the propaganda, for various reasons, cast doubt about climate science in much the same way that similar voices (and sometimes the same voices) cast doubt about smoking and cancer, acid rain and ozone-depleting chemicals. The vested interests’ work was authoritative and their money and vision allowed them to distribute their message widely.In their quest for fairness, the media gave equal time to this authoritative message about climate change not being real. Why? Because it was authoritative. It was designed to be that way using carefully chosen words and carefully chosen academic findings. People began to listen because their authority figures repeated the message. Climate change “believers” dropped from the rolls in droves. Awareness plummeted.” –Bruce Melton.

97% of climate scientists agree that climate change is caused by human activity. 50% of Americans believe it to be true. This is the profound, convincing  and deadly power of propaganda. Lies repeated often enough become truth. Straight out of Joseph Goebbels playbook. It leads people to believe that the economy, dissatisfaction with government and jobs are the most important problems today. It leads people to believe that artificial constructs, like federal debt and the economy will be the most important problems facing our nation in 25 years. We must counter this disinformation with the truth. Educate yourselves with the truth.  Tell the truth, every chance you get, spread awareness, call your elected officials, let them know that climate change is the preeminent problem of our times. There’s no economy, or jobs or debt on a dead planet. “Propaganda Always Wins, If You Allow It.” –Leni Riefenstahl

By Bruce Melton @ Truthout:

Climate change messaging is changing these days. One only needs to look as far as the Sierra Club’s unprecedented encouragement of civil disobedience with the Keystone Pipeline to see this happening. The polls are telling us that some 70 percent or more of Americans believe the Earth is now warming. This falls to a little over 50 percent when the words “because of man” are added to the question, but it is a majority.

Contrast this with about 97 percent of climate scientists believing Earth is warming and caused by man. Why is there such a difference? Part of the reason is because a pox has been put on these four little words: climate change and global warming.

A self-imposed moratorium in the environmental and broadcast communities has been in effect on those four words since the early part of George W. Bush’s administration. Environmental organizations across the nation recognized that negative climate science propaganda was changing public awareness. So those words found themselves being repeated less and less. They were poisoning environmental outreach efforts and their use created distrust.

Why did this happen? Likely, it was almost completely because of propaganda from vested interests. The voices of the propaganda, for various reasons, cast doubt about climate science in much the same way that similar voices (and sometimes the same voices) cast doubt about smoking and cancer, acid rain and ozone-depleting chemicals. The vested interests’ work was authoritative and their money and vision allowed them to distribute their message widely.

In their quest for fairness, the media gave equal time to this authoritative message about climate change not being real. Why? Because it was authoritative. It was designed to be that way using carefully chosen words and carefully chosen academic findings. People began to listen because their authority figures repeated the message. Climate change “believers” dropped from the rolls in droves. Awareness plummeted.

Environmentalists knew that using the poison words was harming their counsel, so they began to advocate for conservation issues to mitigate the effects of climate change that were not directly associated with the poison words. The rallying cry began to focus on the great benefits of energy security from alternative sources, clean air from clean energy and mountaintops unremoved. King coal and the Keystone Pipeline were still targeted, but those four “poison” little words were nowhere to be seen or heard.

The story has changed today, but only a little. In the environmental community, however, the discussion rages as to whether or not to use the poison words. The passive-aggressive ways of the last decade appeared to be working a bit, or was the increase in awareness actually caused by the rapid increase in weather extremes or maybe the change from Bush to Obama – and does it matter any longer?

Academic work has long shown that increased knowledge changes behavior. This fact is as common as how our behavior changes from learning how to read and write in grade school. But the same behavioral academic work also tells us that repetition of misinformation also changes behavior. So how do we increase climate change awareness in spite of all the propaganda?

We could wait for the increasing extremes to do the job. Unprecedented weather events enhanced by or caused by climate change are beginning to make an impact on awareness in local areas and, as long predicted, the extremes are increasing and will likely to continue to increase. Climate change awareness is increasing even though the same old tired voices continue to tell us that no one individual weather event can be blamed on climate change.

These impacts are happening more often and they are happening to you and me. More academic work tells us that when you and I are personally impacted by something, our behavior changes. So we could just wait.

The discoveries in climate science, however, continue to show the situation is getting worse faster than anticipated. And because of nearly 20 years of delay, as the climate scientists have told us all along, future impacts will be even greater than we have previously anticipated.

Climate change is interjecting itself into the public discussion more often lately with the increasing extreme weather events, but there is still a moratorium on the four poison words in the most important place – the environmental advocacy community. It is this community that we rely on to spread the word on why and how pollutants harm our lives. We know we cannot rely on the media because of their “fairness bias.” Most journalists are not scientists; mainstream journalists believe that to be fair they must report both sides of “issues” with words from authoritative figures on both sides.

The predominant passive-aggressive environmentalism messaging in climate science outreach today is holding back awareness. We have enough votes (believers) to kick the climate deniers off the island and get on with things. We simply need to capitalize on those votes.

So how in the world do we get action to finally happen on climate pollution? The answer is simple. We need to take a page from the opposition’s playbook: Propaganda, repeated often enough, and loudly enough, becomes accepted as valid. This same concept works with the truth, oddly enough. The solution to climate pollution starts with a very cheap and simple technique.

Tell the truth and tell it more often than the propagandists are telling their story. Tell the whole truth. Don’t hold back the poison words. This is a very plain and simple strategy that has proved itself time and again (not the telling of the truth – using propaganda). Repeat the message over and over again: repeat, repeat, repeat. If repeated enough, the message becomes a valid living thing.

We have bonus points available to us in this challenge as well. We have the truth. We need to stand on the authority of our scientists and stop dancing around the issue. The passive-aggressive messages of the last decade educates just as well with the “poison words” included – if this message is repeated more often than the propaganda.

This challenge is about defeating negative propaganda. The two things that can do this are more positive propaganda and personal impacts. We can’t wait for enough of us to be “born again” to climate science through personal impacts, so we must create truth messages in quantities greater than those that would have us disbelieve are creating theirs. We must tell the whole story, not just the climate consensus part.

We need to base our decision-making on the latest science, not the consensus. The consensus position is middle ground and relates literally thousands of climate scientists’ opinions and is therefore the least common denominator of agreement. It is a negotiated viewpoint of multiple theories and hypotheses. Because of this, it is watered down.

The reason there is a consensus is validity. When all of the experts agree to something, you can pretty much take that to the bank. There is much less chance of it being wrong. A consensus takes a long time to build. Time has not tested the latest findings. Over time, almost all of climate science becomes validated and a part of the consensus. But time is not on our side.

The discussion rages in the environmental community about how to educate, but this discussion is not echoed in the academic community. It rages in the environmental community because of the negative impacts of the vested-interest propaganda. There is no propaganda in science. Climate science is not a political or economic, or even a social issue, and it is not difficult to understand either.

Properly translated into plain English, we can all understand climate science. A lot of this translation is happening now and has been for literally decades. But the “authoritative” voices have been busy. We simply need to be busier than those “authoritative” voices. We need to speak louder than them and repeat, repeat, repeat. We have enough votes to kick the disbelievers off the island. We need to understand that the need to move forward on treating climate pollution is greater than the need to keep from upsetting the minority.

Bruce Melton

Bruce Melton is a professional engineer, environmental researcher, filmmaker, and author in Austin, Texas. Information on Melton’s new book, Climate Discovery Chronicles can be found along with more climate change writing, climate science outreach and critical environmental issue documentary films on his web sites and www.climatediscovery.com 

How Global Warming Has Prevented Spring’s Arrival

In Uncategorized on April 3, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Snow on spring flowersOldspeak: It turns out that spring’s slow arrival in the US is likely being driven by changes half a world way, in the Arctic. Some of the nation’s most prominent climate researchers announced at a news conference on Tuesday that melting Arctic sea ice may actually be the culprit behind winter’s refusal to pack its bags and leave. Scientists from NOAA and various university climatology departments said that melting Arctic sea ice may be weakening the planet’s jet stream currents, and causing extreme weather systems to linger in the United States… If we continue on the path that we’re on, and continue to do nothing to stop the devastating effects of climate change, we won’t just be talking about freezing temperatures during the first week of spring. We’ll be talking about the beginning of an out-of-control spiral of weather effects that could range from a new ice age to the death of our oceans. ” –Thom Hartmann. This is the all important overarching problem of our times. More important than gun control. More important that immigration reform. More important than bank collapses. More important than austerity.  The changes that are coming in our climate will be irreversible. They’re already beginning. Desertification of arable land is increasing.  Lakes and streams  are drying up, sources of fresh water are evaporating. The ecosystem is in considerable distress.  Yet there is near universal silence in media and political classes about these all important and dangerous changes in the system that sustains us.  We do get plenty of sunny propaganda films from BP and Exxon and Cheveron et al. about all the good things they’re doing to provide energy in safe and environmentally friendly way. I fear universal attention will be paid to this only when it’s too late to stop it.

By Thom Hartmann @ Truthout:

Last week, Butler County, Ohio prosecutor Mike Gmoser “indicted” famed weather-predicting groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, after the groundhog inaccurately predicted an early spring.

Gmoser filed the tongue-in-cheek indictment after snow was forecast to fall in Butler County after the official start of spring.

The halfhearted indictment was dropped Tuesday however, when Gmoser realized that good old Phil had a “defense with teeth in it.”

And, while this whole ordeal may seem quite silly, it did help to raise a very good point: How could Phil be so wrong about the arrival of spring, when he’s usually pretty accurate?

Typically around this time of year, we expect to see spring flowers beginning to bloom in gardens after sun-spotted rain showers because, after all, spring showers are supposed to bring May flowers.

Instead, east coast Americans are still dealing with the effects of an already nasty winter season that has brought unprecedented amounts of snow to just about every region of the United States.

As a result, people are scratching their heads, wondering when spring will really get here.

Well now, it turns out that spring’s slow arrival in the US is likely being driven by changes half a world way, in the Arctic.

Some of the nation’s most prominent climate researchers announced at a news conference on Tuesday that melting Arctic sea ice may actually be the culprit behind winter’s refusal to pack its bags and leave.

Scientists from NOAA and various university climatology departments said that melting Arctic sea ice may be weakening the planet’s jet stream currents, and causing extreme weather systems to linger in the United States.

But how can melting ice cause colder temperatures? After all, that seems somewhat contradictory.

First, it’s important to understand exactly what the jet stream is.

The jet stream is a huge air current that blows from west to east across the planet, miles above the Earth’s surface.

The jet stream is responsible for moving along storm systems, and brings with it, depending on the season, both colder or warmer temperatures.

Normally, the jet stream moves at a relatively quick pace. That’s why weather conditions and temperatures normally change fairly quickly, and don’t stick around in any one place for too long.

For example, while a jet stream may cause cold temperatures and snow to hit Washington, D.C for a couple days, it can also replace those conditions with warmer temperatures and sunny skies in a matter of hours.

But, thanks to global warming and climate change, there is nothing normal about the way the jet stream is acting right now.

As the Earth continues to warm, Arctic sea ice continues to melt. And as that Arctic sea ice melts, it replaces white ice with blue water, which absorbs even more energy and heat from the sun.

As a result, all of that absorbed energy and heat in the arctic is affecting atmospheric pressures, and throwing the northern hemisphere’s jet stream completely out of whack.

The change in atmospheric pressures is slowing the down the flow of the jet stream, which is causing seasons to change more slowly than usual.

This is why the blizzards along the East Coast this winter seemed to linger around, and relentlessly hammered the coast with foot after foot of snow.

Since the jet stream was moving so slowly, the freezing temperatures and snow had nowhere to go.

And it’s only going to get worse.

Recent studies suggest that the entire Arctic may be ice-free by 2020, just seven years from now.

Already, over the course of the last 30 years, the Arctic has lost nearly 80 percent of its ice cover.

The bottom line here is that, if we do nothing to curb the current rate of climate change, the Arctic will continue to lose ice, the Arctic waters will continue to warm, and the jet stream will continue to slow.

And while we may think that freezing temperatures and snow storms during the first week of spring are bad now, just wait.

If we continue on the path that we’re on, and continue to do nothing to stop the devastating effects of climate change, we won’t just be talking about freezing temperatures during the first week of spring.

We’ll be talking about the beginning of an out-of-control spiral of weather effects that could range from a new ice age to the death of our oceans.

When the story first broke about Mike Gmoser indicting Punxsutawney Phil, the media was all over it.

After all, who could resist a story about someone suing a groundhog over bad weather?

What the media wasn’t all over however was climate change, the real reason why Phil’s prediction missed the mark.

The only way we as a nation, and as a global community, can hope to make a meaningful change in the fight to save our planet is to get the media on board with the fight.

Global warming and climate change are the biggest threats that mankind has ever faced, and they get nowhere near the time they should in our media.

It’s time to wake up the media, and inform the few climate change skeptics who are left.

Climate change is very real and it’s here to stay.

And unless we do something about it, a late spring will be the smallest of our worries.

The Secret History Of The War Over Oil In Iraq: The Real Reason For The Iraq War

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Oldspeak: “Oil men, whether James Baker or George Bush or Dick Cheney, are not in the business of producing oil. They are in the business of producing profits. And that’s how George Bush won the war in Iraq. The invasion was not about “blood for oil”, but something far more sinister: blood for no oil. War to keep supply tight and send prices skyward. And they’ve succeeded. Iraq, capable of producing six to 12 million barrels of oil a day, still exports well under its old OPEC quota of three million barrels.” Behold! Grand Area Doctrine par excellence. “Military intervention at will…  it declared that the US has the right to use military force to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,” and must maintain huge military forces “forward deployed” in Europe and Asia “in order to shape people’s opinions about us” and “to shape events that will affect our livelihood and our security.” –Noam Chomsky. When you see the full length and breadth of the depraved and anti-human logic profit-hungry corporocrats concoct to serve their anti-democratic ends, all you can do is shake your head and sigh. Why? Why were over 100,ooo poor, working and middle class Americans killed and maimed? Why have 1,ooo,ooo Iraqi men women and children been killed, with untold numbers on of Americans & Iraqis poisoned and permanently disfigured via the rain of depleted uranium bullets and shells rained on Iraq? Artificially imposed scarcity to generate exorbitant profits, or in a word: Greed. They believe wholeheartedly in the immortal words of Gordon Gekko “Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA” They see the world as a “college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business“. They see the USA as a failing corporation, and they’re looting it before it goes bankrupt. Buying and selling everything that isn’t nailed down, including people. We the people are not really people in their eyes. We’re employees. Unsecured creditors. Revenue streams. All expendable, as evidenced by the breathtaking misadventures in Iraq. The ironic thing is this diabolical plan and illegal war, will help the planet as whole. 10 million less barrels of oil have been burned. The profits accumulated and trillions of dollars wasted are artificial. The real costs in lives and resources have been unacceptably and unnecessarily high. If things remain as they are, conditions will deteriorate. These resource wars will become more more frequent, when there isn’t enough to go around.  Sadly this secret history will not become public, I don’t expect corporate media to pick up on what this intrepid journalist has reported. The official stories and counter-stories have been inculcated. War crimes will continue to go unpunished. Could we expect anything else from a civilization that organizes itself around entities like  sociopathic multinational energy corporations?

By Greg Palast @ Vice Magazine:

Greg Palast is a New York Times bestselling author and fearless investigative journalist whose reports appear on BBC Television Newsnight and in The Guardian. Palast eats the rich and spits them out. Catch his reports and films at www.GregPalast.com, where you can also securely send him your documents marked, “confidential”.

Because it was marked “confidential” on each page, the oil industry stooge couldn’t believe the US State Department had given me a complete copy of their secret plans for the oil fields of Iraq.

Actually, the State Department had done no such thing. But my line of bullshit had been so well-practiced and the set-up on my mark had so thoroughly established my fake identity, that I almost began to believe my own lies.

I closed in. I said I wanted to make sure she and I were working from the same State Department draft. Could she tell me the official name, date and number of pages? She did.

Bingo! I’d just beaten the Military-Petroleum Complex in a lying contest, so I had a right to be chuffed.

After phoning numbers from California to Kazakhstan to trick my mark, my next calls were to the State Department and Pentagon. Now that I had the specs on the scheme for Iraq’s oil – that State and Defense Department swore, in writing, did not exist – I told them I’d appreciate their handing over a copy (no expurgations, please) or there would be a very embarrassing story on BBC Newsnight.

Within days, our chief of investigations, Ms Badpenny, delivered to my shack in the woods outside New York a 323-page, three-volume programme for Iraq’s oil crafted by George Bush’s State Department and petroleum insiders meeting secretly in Houston, Texas.

I cracked open the pile of paper – and I was blown away.

Like most lefty journalists, I assumed that George Bush and Tony Blair invaded Iraq to buy up its oil fields, cheap and at gun-point, and cart off the oil. We thought we knew the neo-cons true casus belli: Blood for oil.

But the truth in the Options for Iraqi Oil Industry was worse than “Blood for Oil”. Much, much worse.

The key was in the flow chart on page 15, Iraq Oil Regime Timeline & Scenario Analysis:

“…A single state-owned company …enhances a government’s relationship with OPEC.”

https://i1.wp.com/assets.vice.com/content-images/contentimage/no-slug/c2e001a56cbf6658dfc45f72dcf71b55.jpg
An infographic produced by the author presenting the Iraq war’s secret history. Click to enlarge.

Let me explain why these words rocked my casbah.

I’d already had in my hands a 101-page document, another State Department secret scheme, first uncovered by Wall Street Journal reporter Neil King, that called for the privatisation, the complete sell-off of every single government-owned asset and industry. And in case anyone missed the point, the sales would include every derrick, pipe and barrel of oil, or, as the document put it, “especially the oil”.

That plan was created by a gaggle of corporate lobbyists and neo-cons working for the Heritage Foundation. In 2004, the plan’s authenticity was confirmed by Washington power player Grover Norquist. (It’s hard to erase the ill memory of Grover excitedly waving around his soft little hands as he boasted about turning Iraq into a free-market Disneyland, recreating Chile in Mesopotamia, complete with the Pinochet-style dictatorship necessary to lock up the assets – while behind Norquist, Richard Nixon snarled at me from a gargantuan portrait.)

The neo-con idea was to break up and sell off Iraq’s oil fields, ramp up production, flood the world oil market – and thereby smash OPEC and with it, the political dominance of Saudi Arabia.

General Jay Garner also confirmed the plan to grab the oil. Indeed, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld fired Garner, when the General, who had lived in Iraq, complained the neo-con grab would set off a civil war. It did. Nevertheless, Rumsfeld replaced Garner with a new American viceroy, Paul Bremer, a partner in Henry Kissinger’s firm, to complete the corporate takeover of Iraq’s assets – “especially the oil”.

But that was not to be. While Bremer oversaw the wall-to-wall transfer of Iraqi industries to foreign corporations, he was stopped cold at the edge of the oil fields.

How? I knew there was only one man who could swat away the entire neo-con army: James Baker, former Secretary of State, Bush family consiglieri and most important, counsel to Exxon-Mobil Corporation and the House of Saud.

(One unwitting source was industry oil-trading maven Edward Morse of Lehman/Credit Suisse, who threatened to sue Harper’s Magazine for my quoting him. Morse denied I ever spoke with him. But when I played the tape from my hidden recorder, his memory cleared and he scampered away.)

There was no way in hell that Baker’s clients, from Exxon to Abdullah, were going to let a gaggle of neo-con freaks smash up Iraq’s oil industry, break OPEC production quotas, flood the market with six million bbd of Iraqi oil and thereby knock the price of oil back down to $13 a barrel where it was in 1998.


The author.

Big Oil could not allow Iraq’s oil fields to be privatised and taken from state control. That would make it impossible to keep Iraq within OPEC (an avowed goal of the neo-cons) as the state could no longer limit production in accordance with the cartel’s quota system. The US oil industry was using its full political mojo to prevent their being handed ownership of Iraq’s oil fields.

That’s right: The oil companies didn’t want to own the oil fields – and they sure as hell didn’t want the oil. Just the opposite. They wanted to make sure there would be a limit on the amount of oil that would come out of Iraq.

Saddam wasn’t trying to stop the flow of oil – he was trying to sell more. The price of oil had been boosted 300 percent by sanctions and an embargo cutting Iraq’s sales to two million barrels a day from four. With Saddam gone, the only way to keep the damn oil in the ground was to leave it locked up inside the busted state oil company which would remain under OPEC (i.e. Saudi) quotas.

The James Baker Institute quickly and secretly started in on drafting the 323-page plan for the State Department. With authority granted from the top (i.e. Dick Cheney), ex-Shell Oil USA CEO Phil Carroll was rushed to Baghdad in May 2003 to take charge of Iraq’s oil. He told Bremer, “There will be no privatisation of oil – END OF STATEMENT.” Carroll then passed off control of Iraq’s oil to Bob McKee of Halliburton, Cheney’s old oil-services company, who implemented the Baker “enhance OPEC” option anchored in state ownership.

Some oil could be released, mainly to China, through limited, but lucrative, “production sharing agreements”.

And that’s how George Bush won the war in Iraq. The invasion was not about “blood for oil”, but something far more sinister: blood for no oil. War to keep supply tight and send prices skyward.

Oil men, whether James Baker or George Bush or Dick Cheney, are not in the business of producing oil. They are in the business of producing profits.

And they’ve succeeded. Iraq, capable of producing six to 12 million barrels of oil a day, still exports well under its old OPEC quota of three million barrels.

The result: As we mark the tenth anniversary of the invasion this month, we also mark the fifth year of crude at $100 a barrel.

As George Bush could proudly say to James Baker: Mission Accomplished!

Follow Greg on Twitter: @Greg_Palast

Two Big Decisions Loom On The Fate Of Drinking Water For 15,800,000 People Living Near The Marcellus Shale In Northeast U.S.

In Uncategorized on November 11, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Oldspeak:” Not for nothin but Fuck Herman Cain. We have more important things to think about. With mountains of evidence demonstrating the grave threats to the free, natural water supply for millions of Americans and irreversible environmental damage done by high pressure hydraulic fracking, the fact that some states will be voting to allow it to go ahead, amid tens of thousands of objections, with grossly inadequate restrictions and regulations, one begins to understand the breath and scope of control the Transnational Corporate Network has over the U.S. government and indeed countless governments worldwide. Natural gas/oil drilling and production are demonstrably dangerous and environmentally devastating means of energy production. Everyone knows this, innumerable accidents worldwide leave no doubt. Yet it continues unabated. 5 people will decide the fate drinking water 15 million. Oil and Natural gas corporations wield infinitely greater power over our political and regulatory systems than the majority of people who supposedly elected officials to represent their interests.  Democracy Inaction. One has to wonder why there is so much pressure and power behind the efforts to proceed with efforts that will in all probability lead to permanent contamination of freely and naturally produced water supplies for millions worldwide, coinciding with curiously sparse corporate news coverage of this issue. Could this be a roundabout way of forcing transitions to privatized water production and distribution? Once people’s water is contaminated, they’ll be left with little other choice than paying for and drinking commercially produced water. Hmmm. Stranger things have happened.”

Related Story:

New Fracking Regulations For The Delaware Basin Unacceptable To Environmentalists

By Stephen Wishnia @ Alter Net:

The fate of fracking in the Northeast may be determined soon.

On Nov. 21, the Delaware River Basin Commission, comprising representatives from four states (New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware) and the federal government, will vote on whether to allow the intensive method of natural-gas drilling in the river’s watershed. The watershed, which supplies drinking water for more than 15 million people, overlaps the eastern end of the Marcellus Shale, an underground geological formation touted as the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.”

The commission’s rules, which will apply in the Delaware watershed, will overlap with state regulations. Pennsylvania already allows fracking. New York is in the process of developing regulations about where it might be allowed and under what conditions. The state Department of Environmental Conservation will hold public hearings in November, and says it will decide sometime next year. Many environmental activists believe Gov. Andrew Cuomo is fast-tracking the issue.

The Background

Fracking is currently on hold in New York and the Delaware watershed while regulations are being developed. In Pennsylvania west of the Delaware watershed, more than 4,000 wells have been drilled since 2005, with almost 1,500 started this year.

The proposed Delaware River regulations will be released Nov. 7. Environmental activists are pessimistic about both processes. “We know they’re going to going to be bad,” says Tracy Carluccio, deputy director of Delaware Riverkeeper. “We don’t know how bad.”

“The fix is in in both,” says Bruce Ferguson of Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy. “Cuomo’s going to shove it down our throats.”

Fracking — a nickname for “high-volume hydraulic fracturing” — involves drilling down into shale layers thousands of feet underground, then pumping in thousands of gallons of water, sand and often toxic additives to shatter the shale and enable gas trapped in it to bubble up through the pipes. Unlike traditional gas wells, which go straight up and down, fracking wells are drilled out horizontally once they reach the shale. The process is fraught with environmental hazards, from above ground spills to the possibility of gas and the toxic chemicals used leaking into groundwater.

The Marcellus Shale is a layer of black shale rich in organic materials along the west side of the Appalachian Mountains. Formed about 400 million years ago, it covers the area under eastern Ohio, most of Pennsylvania, almost all of West Virginia, the Maryland panhandle, and upstate New York from the Southern Tier counties along the Pennsylvania border to the Catskill Mountains. Most of it is more than a mile underground, but the areas where it is closer to the surface — northern Pennsylvania and upstate New York — are where the gas is purest and most easily accessible.

NY Learning from Pennsylvania’s Mistakes?

Pennsylvania has relatively loose regulations. It allows drilling as little as 100 feet away from streams or wetlands and 200 feet from a structure. While it prohibits companies from dumping drilling waste into streams or unlined pits, it lets them store it in open-air pits, as long as the pits are lined with a synthetic material.

The proposed New York regulations, at least the draft issued in September, would be somewhat stricter. They would allow fracking in an estimated 80 percent of the Marcellus Shale, but would ban it within 2,000 feet of public drinking-water supplies and within 500 feet of private wells. They would require “flowback” — the water that returns to the Earth’s surface after fracking, which contains numerous toxic chemicals used in the process — to be stored in watertight tanks. Most important for both political and environmental reasons, they would prohibit fracking within 4,000 feet of the New York City and Syracuse watersheds, as both cities do not filter their water supplies, and it would cost billions of dollars to build filtration plants.

“In developing the permitting process for high-volume hydraulic fracturing, DEC’s number one priority is to protect drinking water for all New Yorkers,” says a Department of Environmental Conservation spokesperson. “New York has taken a cautious and deliberate approach to propose the strictest standards in the nation that are based on sound science and engineering principles. The draft SGEIS [supplemental generic environmental impact statement] contains multiple barriers to protect the state’s drinking water and public health, which include generous buffers around water supplies.”

Richard Young, a geology professor at the State University of New York at Geneseo, calls the buffers “ridiculous.” In fracking, he says, water is pumped underground at pressures of 15,000 pounds per square inch, capable of lifting an 8,000-foot column of rock. This would force the gas and the chemicals used up into fractures in the earth, where they then would inevitably wind up in groundwater.

“There’s lots of faults and fractures in New York State that nobody has mapped. Once you start pressurizing them, there’s no controlling where things go,” he explains. “The cleanup costs would be astronomical even if you could do it. Once you contaminate water underground over a broad area, there’s nothing you can do about it. There’s no bailout plan.”

A Duke University study released in May found methane gas concentrations averaging 19.2 milligrams per liter in water from wells within 1,000 meters of shale-gas well pads in Pennsylvania and upstate New York-17 times the amount of methane in wells farther away. The methane found was distinctly “thermogenic,” prehistoric and from deep underground, rather than “biogenic,” from recent organic decay near the surface. The study listed three possible sources of water contamination: that the process itself had forced gas and toxic chemicals up into aquifers; leaks from defective drill pipes closer to the surface; and spills above ground.

“Methane migration through the 1- to 2-km-thick geological formations that overlie the Marcellus and Utica shales is less likely as a mechanism for methane contamination than leaky well casings,” it said, “but might be possible due to both the extensive fracture systems reported for these formations and the many older, uncased wells drilled and abandoned over the last century and a half in Pennsylvania and New York.”

“Every time you drill a well, be it a water well or a gas well, you’re breaking a seal, says William Kappel, a hydrologist with the United States Geological Service office in Ithaca, New York. Still, he says the chances are “nil” that fracking would force toxins up into groundwater. The intense pressure used, he explains, is to balance the high pressure underground, and the actual pumping takes only 15 to 20 minutes. Underground vertical faults are very small, he adds, sometimes as thin as a sheet of paper. They can be as much as 1,000 feet long at depths of 7,000 feet, but closer to the surface, they are shorter and much more likely to be horizontal.

From the data he’s seen, he says, leaks from vertical drilling pipes are a far more likely hazard.

That is what happened in Dimock, Pennsylvania, a town of 1,400 people near the New York border, in April 2010. The cement casing around a drill pipe cracked, allowing methane to leak into the groundwater, poisoning 19 wells. The water in those wells contained so much methane that there was a risk it might explode. The gas that leaked in Dimock, says Kappel, was not from the Marcellus shale, but from a slightly higher geological layer. Drilling was banned in a nine-square-mile area after the leak. Cabot Energy, the operator of the defective well, signed a consent decree that it would provide water to the 19 households affected. Originally, it was going to build a pipeline to bring water from the nearby town of Montrose, but it decided that supplying 550-gallon “water buffalo” tanks was cheaper.

On Oct. 18, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection said that Cabot could stop providing water to the affected households after Nov. 30.

“They said they weren’t going to spend any more money testing our water,” says Dimock resident Craig Sauter. “They said it was a done deal. One of our neighbors turned on his water today, and it came out brown and orange.”

Sauter and his wife signed a lease for $2,500 an acre in June 2008 to let Cabot drill on their land. The company promised to restore his water if it was degraded, he says, but “they never have.” When the air in his well was tested Sept. 15, he says, it contained 20 percent methane. His tap water “looked like coffee with milk in it.”

Cabot is required to give the affected households gas mitigators. “We’ve been down that road before, and it didn’t do the job,” says Sauter. The device got a lot of the methane out, he says, but his water was still contaminated with arsenic, barium, and uranium. Cabot insists those elements were there naturally.

Lawyers for the affected households may appeal the decision, but Sauter doesn’t have much faith in the courts. “I know money talks, and that’s not reassuring,” he says. The New York DEC says that properly cementing the vertical drilling pipes would have prevented the Dimock gas leaks, as well as several others that occurred in nearby wells. It contends that because the Dimock well was located on a steep hill, it would have flagged the permit application and required “site-specific permit conditions designed to address the risks associated with hillside locations.”

Other fracking hazards include the huge numbers of truck trips required to carry supplies, the amount of water needed for the process, and waste storage. Flowback contains significant amounts of toxic volatile hydrocarbons, such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, as well as lead and halogenated hydrocarbons such as dichlorobromomethane. In Pennsylvania, the ponds that contain the flowback are “the size of an Olympic swimming pool and lined with plastic slightly stronger than a trash bag,” says Gloria Forouzan of Marcellus Protest in Pittsburgh. “There’s no facility in Pennsylvania that can treat this fluid.”

The New York DEC claims that its proposed testing procedures would have averted an April incident in LeRoy Township, Pennsylvania, when, after a heavy rainstorm, a valve flange at a wellhead failed and 60,000 gallons of fracking fluids spurted out. About 10,000 gallons overflowed the edges of the containment pond, and some wound up in a nearby creek. Chesapeake Energy, the well’s operator, says it had passed all safety tests before the accident.

Companies are generally not required to disclose the exact chemicals contained in specific products used in fracking, because that information is considered a “trade secret.” The Bush administration exempted fracking fluids from the Safe Drinking Water Act’s restrictions. The Earthworks Action Web site calls that the “Halliburton loophole,” because “it is widely perceived to have come about as a result of the efforts of Vice President Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force.” Halliburton is one of the top three manufacturers of fracking fluids. There are huge loopholes in the proposed New York regulations, argues Roger Downs, legislative director for the Atlantic branch of the Sierra Club. The regulations cover only wells that will use more than 300,000 gallons of water, he explains; about 5,000 are expected to use less. And the state has not considered the effect of 10,000 fracking wells, with an average of 1,200 truck trips to each one.

“They refuse to do a cumulative environmental impact statement,” he says. “They just concentrate on the impact of individual wells.” Organizing and financing the regulations is another concern. Downs estimates that the DEC would need to hire 220 new staff and spend $20 million a year to have adequate inspections and enforcement. If that doesn’t happen, he says, there will be “pandemonium,” and rules “will be negotiated at the well pad.” If the state doesn’t have solid regulations, he continues, it will be impossible for the public to sue to have them enforced.

There is no federal Environmental Protection Agency standard limiting the amount of methane in drinking water, notes Emily Wurth of Food & Water Watch. Some occurs naturally. Downs also questions whether the regulations will actually prohibit fracking in the New York and Syracuse watersheds. In any case, he adds, most people in rural central and western New York get their water from wells, so they’re also drinking unfiltered water.

Many activists believe that in order to enable fracking, Gov. Cuomo is planning to sacrifice upstate to protect New York City. “They certainly are deciding to drill around political boundaries,” Downs says.

Rural Towns Threatened

The politics of the issue come down to large gas companies versus local residents worried about having their environment poisoned, with the companies trying to win local support from the money drilling generates-in jobs and in payments to landowners. In October, the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry announced that there were more than 20,000 jobs directly linked to Marcellus Shale gas development, more than twice the number in 2008, although jobs in other areas related to the gas industry fell slightly.

“This data further reinforces the undeniable fact that responsible American natural gas production is an unmatched, private-sector job-creation machine,” said a statement by Kathryn Klaber, president of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group based in Pennsylavania.

Elmira, New York, a depressed industrial city just over the border from Pennsylvania, “is indirectly benefiting from the gas boom,” says a local environmental activist. “The influx of gas drilling service industries is using more and more of Chemung County’s underutilized industrial infrastructure. High-paying, low-skilled jobs, albeit temporary, are creating enthusiasm with the working class.”

“It’s a really complicated issue,” says Autumn Stoschek of ShaleShock, an Ithaca-based activist group. She lives in Van Etten, a small town nearby. “It’s a depressed area, but on the other hand, it’s a rural area, and people really like the outdoors.” The rural residents are more likely to display gas-company logos in their yards than the anti-fracking signs that dot the college town of Ithaca, she explains, but they’re suspicious of both environmentalists and corporations.

The Southern Tier has a long history of gas drilling, she says, but when fracking came in, “it was a big turning point,” as large corporations replaced “mom-and-pop gas companies.” Her parents signed a gas lease for $2 an acre in 1999. In 2005, Fortuna Energy drilled a horizontal well on their farm. Some now “regret that they signed the lease,” says upstate activist Lisa Wright. The gas-company “landsmen” who arranged the deals, she explains, didn’t tell them “it’s a huge industrial process. It involves hundreds of truck trips per well.”

“People had no idea what they were dealing with,” says Stoschek. “When they don’t restore your fields and leave a rubble pile, they tell you to sue them.” The pressure on homeowners to settle lawsuits is huge, says Gloria Forouzan. When people can’t live in their home because the water is destroyed, they can’t sell it either, so they are desperate-and gas companies demand silence as part of the settlement, she says.

“Working-class people don’t have the means to get a corporate lawyer to fight this kind of thing,” says Wright.

“We’re a sacrifice zone,” Stoschek concludes.

In New York’s Sullivan and Delaware counties, in the Catskill Mountains on the eastern side of the Delaware, a poll taken in early October found more than two-thirds of residents willing to support a fracking ban. The practice would bring money to the area, says Bruce Ferguson, but at the expense of tourism, farming, and land values. “People value above all the rural character,” he says. “They don’t want to live in an industrial zone.”

The Big Decision

The Delaware River Basin Commission received more than 69,000 comments from the public after its draft regulations were released last December. When it extended the comment period to April 15, the Marcellus Shale Coalition complained that it would “undermine dialogue” by “detracting from the voices of the key stakeholders… landowners, residents of the Basin, and our member companies who are investing capital and creating jobs in the region.”

The Hess company, a member of the coalition, objected to proposed restrictions on drilling within flood-hazard zones, on steep hills, or within 500 feet of water sources, saying they would affect 60 percent of the land the company has leased in the area. It urged more flexible, case-by-case rules.

Tracy Carluccio of Delaware Riverkeeper calls the draft regulations “totally inadequate” to protect the watershed. The commission has not done either a comparative environmental analysis of fracking or a cumulative-impact study, she says.

“They haven’t done the analysis to see if it could be done safely,” she says-and given the record of accidents in Pennsylvania, she adds, it can’t be done safely. “They are now putting in place the ruination of our aquifers.”

DRBC spokesperson Clarke Rupert responds that the commission’s work “was not created in an information vacuum.” It looked closely at how other areas of the country were handling fracking, he adds, and it is not required by federal law to do an environmental-impact statement.

States can enact stronger regulations than the ones the commission creates, Rupert says. The commission can also establish regulations stronger than state laws, but they would apply only to the areas within the Delaware watershed. In Pennsylvania, that would mean the counties along the river, not the western three-fourths of the state.

Activists suspect the commission has agreed not to propose regulations that would be stronger than those of any of the four states in the area. “They are opting out of anything stricter,” says Carluccio.

In May, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman sued the federal government, demanding that it undertake a full environmental review before it allows gas drilling in the Delaware watershed. On Oct. 13, the Philadelphia City Council voted to join the suit.

Three of the five members’ votes are needed for the commission to approve regulations. Pennsylvania is considered a sure yes, as Gov. Tom Corbett is a strong supporter of fracking. He considers it a panacea for the state’s economy, and he received more than $1 million from oil and gas interests in his 2010 campaign. In April, after he proposed slashing the state’s higher education budget by half, he suggested that state colleges could offset the cuts by putting well pads on campus.

The other members’ votes are in play, activists say. In New Jersey, the state legislature recently passed a bill to ban fracking, but Gov. Chris Christie vetoed it. Delaware, which is at the mouth of the river, might be more likely to vote no. Andrew Cuomo may want fracking in New York, but may also want to get his own state’s regulations through first. Environmentalists have been urging the Obama administration to vote no.

Ultimately, says William Kappel, the question is of “relative risk.” He’s worked on drilling rigs, and “accidents do occur.”

All industrial processes cause some environmental degradation; it’s the price we pay for living at a standard above hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers. Yet there is only so much damage the Earth can take. Is the risk that fracking poses to our drinking water worth the amount of energy it creates and the money it provides?

Steven Wishnia is a New York-based journalist and musician. The author of Exit 25 Utopia and The Cannabis Companion, he has won two New York City Independent Press Association awards for his coverage of housing issues.

The 1% Are Fracking the Rest of Us … Literally

 

 

The 1% Frack the 99%

 

As the Emmy-winning documentary Gasland demonstrates, hydrofracking (“fracking” for short) is

polluting water all over the country.

As I noted in August, the government has also officially stated that fracking can cause earthquakes.

A fracking company in the UK admitted last week that their activity was causing earthquakes.

As the New York Daily News notes, many locals suspect fracking of causing the largest earthquake in Oklahoma in 200 years:

Scientists are puzzled by the recent seismic activity.

***

There are 181 injection wells in the Oklahoma county where most of the weekend earthquakes happened, said Matt Skinner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, which oversees oil and gas production in the state and intrastate transportation pipelines.*

Of course, the good folks making money hand over fist by fracking are encouraging open and truthful debate about the risks of fracking, right?

Well, not exactly.

Actor Mark Ruffalo was put on terror watch list after he organized showings of Gasland – the Emmy-award winner – part of a trend of using national security laws to protect big companies (more).

And fracking companies are using military psychological operations techniques to discredit opponents(and see this).

In short, the 1% are fracking the rest of us.

JP Morgan and BP Are Fracking Us, Too

JP Morgan was – at the time of last year’s Gulf oil spill – the largest owner of BP.

BP is ending its clean up operations in the Gulf.

Too bad the well is probably still leaking (and see this).

Indeed, the BP Gulf oil spill, the financial crisis, Fukushima and other major disasters were all caused by the 1%: (1) making insane bets that nothing would blow up, and (2) cutting every possible safety measure to make more money.

And exactly like the toxic financial assets that the big banks dumped onto the national balance sheets of Greece, Italy, America and elsewhere – and ultimately the people – JP Morgan, BP and the U.S. government are dumping the cost of the Gulf disaster on the backs of the American people.

Details Of Secret Pact Emerge: Obama Administration Negotiating To Keep U.S. Troops In Afghanistan Until 2024

In Uncategorized on August 26, 2011 at 11:54 am

Oldspeak: Welp. So much for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. “America is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.” –Major General Smedley Darlington Butler; Congressional Medal of Honor Winner. Today America is in more wars than at any point in its history. There appears to be no end in sight. Spiritual death is upon us. Physical death soon come.”

By Ben Farmer @ The U.K. Telegraph:

Maybe you thought we’d get out of Afghanistan this very year, the drawdown date President Obama set as he surged U.S. troops into the country in December 2009; or maybe you thought the Obama administration’s target for withdrawal might be the last day of 2014, that date certain of recent vintage for turning over U.S. and NATO combat duties to the Afghans; or maybe — if you happen to be a news jockey — you took note when Brigadier General Walter Givhan suggested that the Afghan air force he was training might finally be up and running in 2016; or when his successor Brigadier General Michael  Boera suggested that the date might slip to 2018 if Congress insisted that the Pentagon buy American, not Russian, helicopters for its pilots.  Or maybe you noticed when Lieutenant General William Caldwell, commander of NATO Training Mission Afghanistan, recently suggested that the Afghan military would need the support of thousands of foreign trainers until at least 2020.

Whatever you thought, it turns out that you were wrong, and it’s time to recalibrate.  After all, according to Ben Farmer of the British Telegraph, the Obama administration is now negotiating a “pact” with the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai that could leave American military “trainers” — thousands of them — as well as special operations forces, and the U.S. Air Force settled into some of the enormous Afghan bases the Pentagon has built there until… 2024.

Let’s try, as a start, to put 2024 in perspective.

It was 1979 — and I was 35 — when the U.S. embarked on its first Afghan war.  If 2024 is truly the Afghan endpoint for Washington, I’ll be 80 when the last American soldier leaves.

Or think of it another way: this September’s kindergarteners will be high school graduates in 2024 (and so eligible to join the all-volunteer army in the utterly unlikely event that victory hasn’t been achieved by then).

Or thought of another way, Mullah Omar, head of the Taliban, born in 1959, will 65 and ready for retirement in 2024; George W. Bush, the president who launched the war against the Taliban in 2001, will be 78; Barack Obama, the president who made Bush’s Afghan war his own, will be 63; and David Petraeus, the general who ran the Iraq War, Centcom, the Afghan War, and then the CIA, will be 72. (Expect years of Afghan-war-related memoirs.)  And NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, may be only a year from losing power in 2024 and perhaps less than 73,600 years from the nearest star (by which time, the U.S. will be out of Afghanistan).

But let’s not get downhearted. If Farmer’s 2024 date turns out to be accurate, based on what we’ve repeatedly seen over the last near decade, there’s plenty to look forward to in the intervening 13 years — and here’s just a sampling:

The U.S. Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (call it the IG), government task forces, and various media organizations can do periodic investigations and issue corruption reports for 13 more years, just like the one Task Force 2010, set up by General Petraeus, recently issued. It indicated that some $360 million in U.S. taxpayer dollars have “ended up in the hands of… the Taliban, criminals, and power brokers with ties to both,” all thanks to “profiteering, bribery, and extortion.”

And here’s something else to look forward to: If all goes well, the U.S. and its allies can continue to offer another 13 years’ worth of military and “development” funding that, as a June report by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Democratic majority staff indicated, already accounts for 97 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product. And as that report (and so many others before it) also made clear, that funding has a remarkable way of “developing” next to nothing.

Or look forward to years more of reports like the one issued in April by the IG pointing out that some of the $10 billion a year being poured into training, building up, and supplying Afghanistan’s police is simply missing-in-action. Gone. Nowhere in sight. Not accounted for. The IG reported that “the country’s police rolls and payrolls cannot be verified because of poor record keeping,” which meant that the numbers “for all practical purposes become somewhat fictitious.” In other words, you can expect 13 more years in which your tax dollars fund significant numbers of “ghost policemen.”

Or look forward to more than a decade of news articles and official reports on the approximately 30 percent of Afghan army troops who desert each year. (Lieutenant General Caldwell supplied that figure in June.) To be exact, if enrolment in the army reaches 171,600 by this October, as scheduled, you’re talking about slightly more than 51,000 deserters a year, or a minimum of 668,000 by 2024 (and since army troop levels are slated to rise, however absurd that number already sounds, it’s undoubtedly an underestimate).

Or consider the cost of the war as reflected in the Pentagon’s 2012 budget request:$107.3 billion a year. (Of course, like those police figures, that’s probably a kind of happy fiction.) A group of experts on the Afghan war, for example, puts the actual number at $120 billion — and neither of these figures includes the money that Washington will be spending in 2024 and beyond to care for the war’s damaged veterans. Still, just for argument’s sake, let’s go with $107 billion a year through 2014, when the last U.S. “combat” troops are slated to depart, and then just arbitrarily slash that figure by half to 2024. That would total $856 billion over the next 13 years.  (By comparison, were President Obama’s proposals to close corporate tax loopholes and tax the mega-rich at Clinton-era rates put into effect, that would pull in only $700 billion over 10 years.)

And of course, while a rollicking good time would be had by all over those 13 years of training local forces and carrying out special operations and air missions in the greater Afghan region, a newly released report from the Medicare and Social Security Trustees predicts that “the Hospital Insurance fund, which pays for hospital stays of Medicare recipients, will run out in 2024, five years earlier than last year’s report estimate.” And don’t even think about what’s likely to happen to America’s infrastructure, already sorely underfunded — all those dams, bridges, natural gas pipelines, roads, and other basics of our lives — in those same years.

I could go on, but you get the idea. If by dint of sheer grit and tons of dough, the Pentagon somehow outlasts the Taliban (and whatever is left of al-Qaeda in the region), victory in Afghanistan in 2024 will assumedly leave in place a desperately frail semi-nation with a still-hemorrhaging security force of 400,000 that it will be utterly incapable of paying for.

In the meantime, the U.S. will undoubtedly be a nation unbuilt. Still, what a 13 years to look forward to!

So mark it on your calendars. If that Washington-Kabul pact goes through as planned, consider it settled: victory in 2024 and mission accomplished.

Over 160 Arrested In Ongoing Civil Disobedience At White House Against Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2011 at 6:42 pm

Oldspeak“Can you imagine if one of those earthquakes happened near an oil pipeline?!  The oil giant Transcanada wants to build a massive 1,700 mile extension to their network of pipelines crossing 6 states. It would threaten a large fresh water aquifer, fragile ecosystems and farmland with contamination from the dirtiest form of oil on earth; Bitumen. In Canada alone, up to 10 million barrels of freshwater A DAY is used to refine it. Obama has the power to stop it. On the campaign trail he said when he got elected, he were going to begin to heal the planet, that he were going to put policies in place to heal the planet. This is a prime opportunity to keep a promise that will affect the lives and heath of millions of Americans. But alas, given his documented support for and from dirty energy producers of  oil, ‘clean coal’, and nuclear, I won’t hold my breath. It would be a beautiful thing though if he actually listened to the people screaming outside his office window. Yet another serious issue ignored by corporate press.”

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

Fifty-two environmental activists were arrested Monday in front of the White House as part of an ongoing protest calling on the Obama administration to reject a permit for the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline project, which would deliver Canada tar sands oil to refineries in Texas, and rather focus on developing clean energy. An estimated 2,000 people have signed up to hold sit-ins and commit other acts of civil disobedience outside the White House every day for the next two weeks — 162 have already been arrested since Saturday. Also joining the protest are indigenous First Nations communities in Canada and landowners along the Keystone XL pipeline’s planned route. An editorial in Sunday’s New York Times joined in calling on the State Department to reject the pipeline, noting that the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production. Meanwhile, oil industry backers of the project emphasize what they say are the economic benefits of the $7 billion proposal. As the Obama administration remains undecided whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, we speak with Bill McKibben, who joins us from Washington, D.C., where he was released Monday after spending two nights in jail. He is part of Tar Sands Action, a group of environmentalists, indigenous communities, labor unions and scientific experts calling for action to stop the project. “This is the first real civil disobedience of this scale in the environmental movement in ages,” McKibben says.

Guest:

Bill McKibben, part of Tar Sands Action and founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org. He is the author of many books, including his most recent, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.
Related stories

Related Links

AMY GOODMAN: Fifty-two environmental activists were arrested Monday in front of the White House as part of an ongoing protest now underway being called—it’s calling on the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed 1,500-mile pipeline would deliver tar sands oil 1,700 miles from Canada to refineries in Texas. Demonstrators are calling on Obama to reject a permit for the pipeline and instead focus on developing clean energy.

An estimated 2,000 people have signed up to hold sit-ins and commit other acts of civil disobedience outside the White House every day for the next two weeks. More than 162 people have been arrested since Saturday. Among those arrested was prominent environmental activist Bill McKibben. He and 65 others were released Monday after spending 48 hours in jail. Dr. Sydney Parker of Maryland was arrested Sunday.

DR. SYDNEY PARKER: We are here because this is not just an environmental issue, it’s also a very big health issue. And that’s why we’ve come out today, and that’s why we’re so committed. So, personally, I have never been arrested before. I’m not—you know, I don’t do this for fun. I’m here because I think it is such an important issue that it really demands this kind of action, and it demands that level of commitment from myself.

AMY GOODMAN: Also headed to Washington to join the protest are indigenous First Nations communities in Canada and landowners along the Keystone XL pipeline’s planned six-state route from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

An editorial in Sunday’s New York Times joined in calling on the State Department to reject the pipeline. It noted the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production.

Meanwhile, oil industry backers of the project are emphasizing what they say are the economic benefits of the $7 billion proposal. Republican Congress Member Ted Poe, whose home state of Texas hosts the refineries that would receive the tar sands oil, urged President Obama to back the pipeline.

REP. TED POE: To me, an easy choice for this administration: either they can force Americans to continue to rely on unfriendly foreign countries for our energy, like Venezuela and the Middle Eastern dictators, by depriving Americans of a reliable source of oil at a time when gas prices are around $4, or they can work with our friends in the north to supply over 1.4 million barrels of oil per day. Pipelines are the proven and safe, efficient source of energy. Best of all, this project creates thousands of jobs at a time when unemployment in this country is 9.2 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: As the Obama administration remains undecided on the Keystone XL pipeline, we turn now to one of the leading environmentalists opposed to its construction, Bill McKibben, from Washington, D.C., just released from jail after spending two nights there along with others as they kicked off the pipeline protests, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org. His latest book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Bill, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain why you were arrested.

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, we really felt like this was the issue, Amy, the best chance for the President to make the statement he hasn’t really made so far in his administration about the fact that we’ve got to get off oil, that we don’t need one more huge source of oil pouring in, instead we need to make the tough decision that we’re going to try and power our lives in new ways. And so, there are people flooding into D.C. from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, lining up to get arrested over the next couple of weeks. It’s pretty powerful to see.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill, last week I asked Cindy Schild of the American Petroleum Institute why her group and TransCanada are pushing so hard for the pipeline. She denied having any financial interests in having the project approved, saying API is looking out for the country’s “energy security.” This is an excerpt of what she had to say.

CINDY SCHILD: API doesn’t have a financial interest in the pipeline. I mean, we’re looking out for, again, energy security, national security. We also see supply flexibility and reliability benefits to being able to bring the third-largest resource base from Canada, and our number one trading partner, down to our largest refining center in the Gulf.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the spokesperson for American Petroleum Institute. Bill McKibben, who stands to benefit from this project?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, they may not have any—they may not have—you know, the institute, whatever it is, may not have a financial interest, but the oil industry sure does. There’s a couple of trillion dollars worth of sludge sitting up there that they desperately want to sell. That’s why they’re lobbying like crazy to get Washington to approve this thing. But, you know, I mean, let’s be serious. This is the second-largest pool of carbon on earth. America’s foremost climatologist and NASA scientist, Jim Hansen, said a few weeks ago, if we begin tapping into this, it’s—and I quote— “essentially game over for the climate,” unquote. I don’t know what more one more needs to say about security than that. I’m not quite sure what kind of world, you know, what kind of security they’re talking about, once we push global warming past whatever tipping points remain.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you feel are the problems with the tar sands, and exactly what route this will take, where it will go, the pipeline.

BILL McKIBBEN: So, the problems fall into two categories, really. One is along the pipeline. Start in Alberta, where it’s an environmental debacle. They’ve scraped off huge—I mean, when I say “huge,” I mean huge; this tar sands covers an area the size of the United Kingdom—scraped off huge amounts of boreal forest, wrecked native lands and native lives, which is why indigenous people have been at the core of this organizing effort. Now they’re proposing to stick it in a pipeline and send it 1,700 miles to Texas. The 1,700 miles goes through some of the most sensitive and beautiful and important agricultural land in this country. It crosses the Ogalalla Aquifer, a source of water for 20 million people, one of the great pools of fresh water on the planet.

You know, I mean, the precursor, small precursor pipeline of this thing has had 12 leaks in a year. You know, part of our job here is to prevent a terrestrial BP spill, OK? But even if all that oil makes it safely to Texas, OK, every drop of it that didn’t spill into the land or water is going to spill into the atmosphere. If we burn that oil, we increase dramatically the amount of global warming gases in the atmosphere. And after a year that’s just seen the highest temperatures ever recorded on this planet, after a year we’ve seen incredible weather extremes of all kinds, that’s just folly. You listen to the senator from Texas, and you want to say to the guy, “Have you noticed that your state is in the worst drought—worse than the Dust Bowl—the worst drought ever recorded? Get real!”

And that’s why—it’s why it’s so great that there are people just showing up at the White House, saying, “President Obama, you can actually block this thing. You don’t have to ask Congress a thing. It’s up to you. You can simply say, ‘No, we’re not going to give the permit for this dog of a project. We’re, for once, really going to stand up.’”

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of Texas politicians, Bill McKibben, I wanted to play a comment of Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, who recently claimed global warming is a hoax. This is what Perry said at a news conference in New Hampshire.

GOV. RICK PERRY: The issue of global warming has been politicized. I think that there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. And I don’t think, from my perspective, that I want America to be engaged in spending that much money on still a scientific theory that has not been proven and, from my perspective, is more and more being put into question.

AMY GOODMAN: That was presidential candidate Perry, the governor of Texas. Bill McKibben?

BILL McKIBBEN: Rick Perry’s response to the drought so far has been to have a statewide day of prayer. Now, I’m a Methodist Sunday school teacher, so I’m completely down with prayer. That’s good. But in most theologies, prayer works a little better if you aren’t at the same time trying to think of every policy you can do to make matters worse. It’s astonishing that someone is able to make George Bush look relatively smart about scientific things. The Governor is completely wrong, of course, about the science. It’s not only strong, it grows stronger with every passing heat wave and every year of record temperature. There’s no scientific doubt.

The only reason that anybody is even considering building this pipeline is because it’s going to make a few big corporations an immense amount of money. And that’s why those corporations and the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are lobbying like crazy for it. We don’t have the money to compete with those guys. All we have, the only alternative currency we have, is our bodies. And that’s what we’re using.

It was interesting to be in jail this weekend and reflect—listen to some of the people on the cell block reflecting on the fact that the last time they were, you know, lying on the ground like this was in some church basement while they were out campaigning for Barack Obama in that fevered fall of 2008. We’re incredibly hopeful that if the President does the right thing here, it will remind a lot of us why we were so enthusiastic about him and send a real jolt of electricity through people that are a little, frankly, discouraged at the moment.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill, you have been an environmentalist for decades and acted on that, but now you’re getting arrested. Why have you chosen to participate in the civil disobedience? And also, why in front of the White House now, when President Obama is on vacation?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, we’ll be here when he gets back, too. We’re staying for two weeks, every day. This is the first real civil disobedience of this scale in the environmental movement in ages—I mean, as long as I can recall. And even before he gets back, I’m virtually certain they’ve established a phone connection between the White House and Martha’s Vineyard. I’m pretty sure he knows we’re there, because everybody else seems to. When we came out of jail, they handed me that New York Times editorial, one of the strongest editorials I’ve ever seen in the paper, just saying, “Mr. President, block this pipeline.” I think the message is getting through.

And I think the message needs to get through, because this is one place where President Obama has no obstacles to acting. Congress isn’t in the way. He has no obstacles to acting and no excuse for not acting. It will be the biggest test for him, environmentally, between now and the next election. It’s emerged as the single, premier environmental issue right now, that people from every organization and every group are coming to Washington to help with. And the good news is that after trying to treat us pretty harshly in order to deter this protest from happening, the police are now backing off under orders from a judge, and so the subsequent three waves of arrestees have been treated much more civilly than we were. And so, I think that it’s going to only grow.

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, the alliance of environmentalists and labor unions that is growing right now, can you talk about the significance of this?

BILL McKIBBEN: Absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein just tweeted, “This is a major breakthrough in green+labour alliance: 2 big unions oppose.”

BILL McKIBBEN: She was talking about the fact that two of the big unions, last week, came out against this pipeline, even though the argument for it, theoretically, is that it’s going to create jobs. It will create a few. You can’t build a pipeline this big without, but at nowhere near the number that the proponents have been claiming, as it turns out. More to the point, by continuing our addiction to oil, it will send billions of dollars a day north into Canada and not give us the incentive that we need to put people to—far, far, far more people to work doing the wind and solar work that will actually repower our lives. That’s where the jobs are, and those jobs won’t be wrecking the future.

AMY GOODMAN: We have just 15 seconds, but, Bill McKibben, you’re right there in front of the White House. You and a number of students waged a campaign to get solar panels put back on the White House roof, that President Reagan had taken down. Then there was a big announcement of the victory, that President Obama had agreed. But they haven’t been put up.

BILL McKIBBEN: No, we were looking closely, as we were being arrested, and there’s no sign of them up there on the roof. But you know what? President Obama, right now that’s job number two. Job number one is blocking this incredible pipeline. Let’s get the nation’s house in order, and then it would be good if you’d go to work on your own, too.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, thanks so much for being with us, spokesperson for TarSandsAction.org.

BILL McKIBBEN: Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: Just came out of jail after two days, nonviolently protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. He is the founder of 350.org.

Another Oil Spill As ExxonMobil Fouls Montana’s Pristine Yellowstone River

In Uncategorized on July 6, 2011 at 10:14 am

Oldspeak:”ExxonMobil spends alotta money trying to convince you that they’re doing good things for you, America and the environment with their feel good commercial/campaign ads where they support  minority education and fighting infectious diseases. Reducing dependence on foreign oil, engineering “cleaner” more environmentally friendly extraction techniques. It’s all bullshit. They deal in death. Their business is extracting the extremely toxic fossilized remains of dead animals and plants. And in the wake of their latest environmentally devastating accident, they’re going to the old reliable disaster response playbook: downplay the amount released, downplay environmental and health effects while feigning vigorous clean up efforts so as to minimize exposure to resulting legal action and amounts of recompense. The EPA, one of the energy industry’s captured ‘regulators’ is even in on the snow job claiming air and water quality have not been affected in the face of reports of oil covered wildlife and people hospitalized from exposure to oil fumes. Alas pictures like the one above tell you all you need to know. Extraction and production of oil and natural gas are inherently dangerous and toxic to the environment and everything living in it. People around the world are being killed, displaced and poisoned so Big Oil can get at their lethal lifeblood. Truly clean (not ‘natural’ gas, not nuclear, not ‘clean’ coal) and renewable energy is the only safe and sustainable way forward.

Related Stories:

Yellowstone River Suffers Oil Spill

 

Crews Mop Up Oil On Yellowstone River

 

Oil Leak Not Sealed As Quickly as Exxon Claimed

By Tara Thean @ Time Ecocentric:

Amid the fireworks, parades, and hot dogs of this past Fourth of July weekend was that sinking feeling of déjà vu when news broke that yet another oil spill was oozing across once-clean waters. This time, it wasn’t the Gulf of Mexico, it was Montana; and it wasn’t BP, it was ExxonMobil. On Friday, 1,000 barrels of crude oil (42,000 gal.) spilled into Yellowstone River after an ExxonMobil pipeline under the riverbed ruptured. The pipeline has been shut down, but not yet repaired.

ExxonMobil is “making progress” in cleaning up the oil, according to, well ExxonMobil. Company president, Gary Pruessing says that the oil giant is conducting daily reconnaissance tests to see the impact the leak is having in the areas around the riverbanks. At this point, Pruessing says, the cleanup team has yet to find areas affected by the spill beyond 25 miles of where the pipeline ruptured, and the oil found along the shoreline is “in really small patches.”

More from TIME: A Timeline of the BP Oil Spill

“I don’t want to infer in any way that we’ve completed [the tests],” Pruessing said. “If we have citizens with additional information that would conflict that, we encourage them to contact us.”

If ExxonMobil’s tests on air and water quality so far are anything to go by, residents should have no reason to panic. Though citizens of Yellowstone county raised concerns that benzene, a chemical naturally present in crude oil, might be fouling the air in the wake of the spill, air monitoring conducted so far has not found “measurable amounts that would cause problems from a health standpoint,” according to Pruessing. The same goes for water quality: the Environmental Protection Agency has conducted sampling throughout the river but has yet to pick up anything harmful.

“All the monitoring has indicated that we don’t have any air issues…and we have not had any reports about water quality,” Pruessing said, adding that the Environmental Protection Agency conducted more sampling on Monday and will make the results available in the next day or two. “We believe [the latest sampling] will confirm earlier reports that we do not have any issues on the water.”

But Alexis Bonogofsky, who lives on the Yellowstone River, said she feels strongly that ExxonMobil has downplayed the impact of the oil spill and is withholding information from residents of Yellowstone County. “It’s almost like they’re reading out of a playbook,” she said. “First they downplay the amount, then they downplay the effect – and then you see reports that it’s bigger and more damaging than they thought.” Bonogofsky added that Yellowstone County residents were not allowed to record Pruessing’s responses to their queries during a meeting with Pruessing on Sunday.

“They’re just spewing talking points,” she said. “It’s really frustrating – I think right now people are nervous and scared; they don’t know what’s going on.”

Photos from TIME: Victims of the BP Oil Spill 

But even if it is frustrating, this response shouldn’t be surprising, according to Ryan Salmon, Energy Policy Advisor for the National Wildlife Federation‘s Climate and Energy Program. “I think industry in every case has downplayed the impacts and I don’t anticipate this will be any different,” he said. Those impacts could be pretty significant: the toxic chemicals released into the river would be a problem for aquatic wildlife, Salmon said, and NWF Global Warming Solutions Program Executive Director Tim Warman noted that pipeline oil spills tend to adversely affect the health of rivers and the ecosystems surrounding them.

“It’s literally impossible that there are not going to be those impacts,” Bonogofsky said, adding that the residents of Yellowstone County haven’t been provided with enough information from ExxonMobil about the consequences of the oil spill.

Faced with these claims, Yellowstone County commissioner Bill Kennedy noted that he had provided ExxonMobil with a list of all the landowners along the riverbank and asked the company to talk face-to-face with them. “They spent four hours with one couple who had a lot of oil on their property,” he said. “We’re working on trying to have a public meeting to update everyone.” Pruessing also emphasized that a community hotline has been set up for homeowners to raise concerns about water quality or the affects of the oil spill on their land.

But Kennedy, Pruessing and ExxonMobil have a lot of convincing to do yet. Bonogofsky, for one, feels that many of the company’s statements and actions are merely for publicity. “I feel like now the cleanup crew is here and there are cameras everywhere…but only in the public places. Landowners don’t have cleanup crews in their place,” she said. “We haven’t had anyone call us and say ‘Hey, Exxon is taking care of you.’”

Photos from TIME: Protesting BP

Defiant Gadhafi Threatens Retaliatory Attacks In Europe

In Uncategorized on July 2, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Oldspeak: Corporate Newspeak at it’s finest. Play up the threat from Gadhafi to “carry out attacks in Europe against “homes, offices, families,” unless NATO halts its campaign of airstrikes against his regime in Libya” while making no mention of the fact that U.S./NATO forces are right now carrying out attacks in Libya dropping radioactive uranium bombs on civilian structures, homes, hotels and hospitals, and not “his regime”. No mention of the killing of Gadhafi’s son and 2 grandchildren, in violation of the U.N. mandate on the “intervention”. The author points out  his Gadhafi’s ties to terrorist acts  in the past then later in the article the author notes “Gadhafi was believed to have severed his ties with extremist groups when he moved to reconcile with Europe and the United States” effectively equating his threatened response to an unprovoked attack on his country with his wanting to commit terrorism in Europe. Why is it the U.S./NATO attackers that have repeatedly killed innocents they were mandated to protect not characterized as terrorist or extremist intervention Libya? There was no effort on the part of western powers to intervene diplomatically, their first and only option was invasion and military intervention, with the now obvious objective of regime change and targeted assassination of Gadhafi. Seems to me an extreme response to an alleged civil war in a country that has not attacked the U.S. or NATO. So what we’re to understand ultimately is that the U.S./NATO can attack any nation they choose, using any flimsy pretext they decide to come up with for justifying it, (note all allegations of wrongdoing Gadhafi’s accused of in the article are basically unsubstantiated) and that nation will be labeled “Terrorist” if they decide to respond to the U.S./NATO attack.  The author maybe inadvertently provides the reader with a glimmer of the true objective of  U.S./NATO bombing campaign toward the end of the article – “Seif al-Islam accused Western nations of intervening in Libya because they are after the country’s oil and other resources. He said the goal is “to control Libya,” and he vowed to fight on.”
The ‘Politics of Naming‘ is whimsical today….

Related Story: African Union Members Agree To Disregard ICC Gadhafi Arrest Warrant

By Adam Schreck @ The Associated Press:

A defiant Moammar Gadhafi has threatened to carry out attacks in Europe against “homes, offices, families,” unless NATO halts its campaign of airstrikes against his regime in Libya.

The Libyan leader, sought by the International Criminal Court for a brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters, delivered the warning in a telephone message played Friday to thousands of supporters gathered in the main square of the capital Tripoli.

It was one of the largest pro-government rallies in recent months, signaling that Gadhafi can still muster significant support. A green cloth, several hundred meters long and held aloft by supporters, snaked above the crowd filling Tripoli’s Green Square. Green is Libya’s national color.

A series of powerful explosions later rattled the heart of the capital, apparently new NATO airstrikes, as Gadhafi supporters cheered, honked horns and fired into the air in the street. Black smoke could be seen rising from the area near Gadhafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound.

Gadhafi spoke from an unknown location in a likely sign of concern over his safety. Addressing the West, he warned that Libyans might take revenge for NATO bombings.

“These people (the Libyans) are able to one day take this battle … to Europe, to target your homes, offices, families, which would become legitimate military targets, like you have targeted our homes,” he said.

“We can decide to treat you in a similar way,” he said of the Europeans. “If we decide to, we are able to move to Europe like locusts, like bees. We advise you to retreat before you are dealt a disaster.”

It was not immediately clear whether Gadhafi could make good on such threats.

In the past, Gadhafi supported various militant groups, including the IRA and several Palestinian factions, while Libyan agents were blamed for attacks in Europe, including a Berlin disco bombing in 1986 and the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people, mostly Americans. Libya later acknowledged responsibility for Lockerbie.

In recent years, however, Gadhafi was believed to have severed his ties with extremist groups when he moved to reconcile with Europe and the United States.

Al-Qaida and other jihadi groups have opposed Gadhafi since he cracked down in the late 1990s on the Islamist Libyan Islamic Fighting Group which sought to replace his regime with an Islamic state.

A U.S. State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said the U.S. would take Gadhafi’s threat of attacks seriously, as his regime carried out such actions in the past. Toner said he did not know if there was intelligence to indicate Gadhafi’s regime would be able to carry out such attacks.

“This is an individual who’s obviously capable of carrying these kinds of threats, that’s what makes him so dangerous, but he’s also someone who’s given to overblown rhetoric,” Toner told a news conference in Washington.

Friday’s rally came just four days after the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Gadhafi, his son Seif al-Islam and Libyan intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi for crimes against humanity. International prosecutors allege government troops fired on civilian protesters during anti-Gadhafi street demonstrations earlier this year.

The popular uprising has since turned into a protracted civil war, with anti-government rebels controlling much of eastern Libya and parts of Libya’s western mountains. NATO has been bombing government-linked targets since March.

In his speech Friday, Gadhafi denounced the rebels as traitors and blamed them for Libya’s troubles.

He said Libyans who fled to neighboring Tunisia are now “working as maids for the Tunisians.”

“Tunisians used to work for Libyans. What brought you to this stage? The traitors,” he added.

He called on his supporters to march on rebel strongholds, including the western mountain area and the port city of Misrata, both in the otherwise Gadhafi-controlled western Libya. “We must end this battle fast,” he said of the attempts to oust him from power, which began with an uprising in mid-February.

Gadhafi’s speech signaled that mounting international pressure, including the arrest warrants against him, have made him only more defiant.

His son, Seif al-Islam, who like his father is a wanted man, denied in a TV interview that either of them ordered the killing of civilian protesters in Libya, as prosecutors charge.

The younger Gadhafi told Russian news channel RT in an interview posted online Friday that “most of the people” died when they tried to storm military sites, and that guards fired on them under standing orders to protect the bases and themselves.

However, documents from the International Criminal Court outline multiple instances in which the tribunal prosecutors allege government troops fired on civilian protesters during anti-Gadhafi street demonstrations earlier this year.

The younger Gadhafi had once been viewed as a reformer by the West and was being groomed as a possible successor to his father.

Seif al-Islam wore a thick beard and traditional clothes in the interview. He denounced the international court seeking his arrest as controlled by the NATO countries now bombing Libya.

“This court is a Mickey Mouse court … For me to be responsible for killing people, it was a big joke,” he told the Russian state-funded network.

The Netherlands-based tribunal on Monday issued arrest warrants against the Libyan leader, his son Seif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanoussi.

The three are accused of orchestrating the killing, injuring, arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of civilians during the first 12 days of an uprising to topple Moammar Gadhafi from power, and for trying to cover up their alleged crimes.

Presiding Judge Sanji Monageng of Botswana has said that hundreds of civilians were killed, injured or arrested in the crackdown, and there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that Gadhafi and his son were both responsible for their murder and persecution.

But Seif al-Islam denied that he and his father specifically ordered protesters to be killed.

“Of course not,” he said, arguing that government troops fired on protesters out of self-defense.

“Nobody ordered. Nobody. The guards fired. That’s it. … The guards were surprised by the attacking people and they (started) … firing. They don’t need an order to defend themselves,” he said.

Seif al-Islam accused Western nations of intervening in Libya because they are after the country’s oil and other resources. He said the goal is “to control Libya,” and he vowed to fight on.

“Nobody will give up. Nobody will raise the white flag,” he said. “We want peace, but if you want to fight, we are not cowards. … We are going to fight.”

Obama Plan For Afghan War Withdrawal Will Leave Troop Numbers At Pre-Surge Levels

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2011 at 11:30 pm

Oldspeak:”Mission Accomplished: REDUX. Obama gave an awesome speech the other day but here’s the reality check- ‘US taxpayer dollars are still funding the Taliban. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban government was funded by the US taxpayer. In fact, the Taliban still receives a significant portion of their funding courtesy of the US taxpayer. As The Nation recently reported: “It is an accepted fact of the military logistics operation in Afghanistan that the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. And it is a deadly irony, because these funds add up to a huge amount of money for the Taliban. ‘It’s a big part of their income,’ one of the top Afghan government security officials told The Nation in an interview. In fact, US military officials in Kabul estimate that a minimum of 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts–hundreds of millions of dollars–consists of payments to insurgents.” In a ‘war’ where American taxpayers are funding both sides, where “our” side is paying 1 million dollars for every soldier deployed, $400 dollars for every gallon of gas consumed, and paying thousands of rarely mentioned in corporate media mercenaries (much more than regular army soldiers) who have a vested financial interest in perpetuating the war- bankers oil companies and military contractors are winning and America is losing. ‘Ignorance is Strength’

By Amy Goodman & Juan Gonzalez @ Democracy Now:

President Obama’s plan to draw down U.S. troops in Afghanistan still leaves more in the country than when he came into office. In a televised address, Obama said he will also bring home another 23,000 troops by the end of summer in 2012, leaving around 70,000 military forces, plus thousands of contractors. We discuss the longest war in U.S. history with Gareth Porter, an investigative journalist and historian specializing in U.S. national security policy. “There is an effort here to create a narrative that, as he put it, the war is receding, the tide of war is receding, when in fact nothing of the sort is happening,” says Porter. “Clearly, the Taliban are carrying out counterattacks this year and will do so again next year. That’s not going to come to an end.”

Guest:
Gareth Porter, historian and investigative journalist specializing in U.S. national security policy.

JUAN GONZALEZ: We begin today’s show on the nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan. It is already the longest war in U.S. history. On Wednesday night, President Obama announced a plan to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan this year and bring another 23,000 home by the end of the summer in 2012.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals. As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point. After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.

We’re starting this drawdown from a position of strength. Al-Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since 9/11. Together with the Pakistanis, we have taken out more than half of al-Qaeda’s leadership. And thanks to our intelligence professionals and Special Forces, we killed Osama bin Laden, the only leader that al-Qaeda had ever known. This was a victory for all who have served since 9/11. One soldier summed it up well. “The message,” he said, “is we don’t forget. You will be held accountable, no matter how long it takes.”

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama’s plan would leave around 68,000 military personnel, plus thousands of contractors, still in the country—the same size as before the troop surge last year. Along with emphasizing what the U.S. and its allies had achieved since the surge, Obama acknowledged that work remained to be done.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In Afghanistan, we’ve inflicted serious losses on the Taliban and taken a number of its strongholds. Along with our surge, our allies also increased their commitments, which helped stabilize more of the country. Afghan security forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we’ve already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people. In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces, opening markets and schools, creating new opportunities for women and girls, and trying to turn the page on decades of war.

Of course, huge challenges remain. This is the beginning, but not the end, of our effort to wind down this war. We’ll have to do the hard work of keeping the gains that we’ve made, while we draw down our forces and transition responsibility for security to the Afghan government. And next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition.

JUAN GONZALEZ: President Obama concluded his speech by saying that Americans can take solace in the fact that two long conflicts were being brought to an end.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yet tonight, we take comfort in knowing that the tide of war is receding. Fewer of our sons and daughters are serving in harm’s way. We’ve ended our combat mission in Iraq, with 100,000 American troops already out of that country. And even as there will be dark days ahead in Afghanistan, the light of a secure peace can be seen in the distance. These long wars will come to a responsible end.

AMY GOODMAN: To discuss the President’s remarks, we go to Washington, D.C., to Gareth Porter, historian, investigative journalist, specializing in U.S. national security policy.

Your assessment of President Obama’s announcement last night?

GARETH PORTER: Oh, I think there are two major storylines here about his speech. First, he made it clear that he had leaned very sharply in favor of the interests of the Pentagon and the military, as opposed to the interests or the views of those in his own administration who believe that we needed to save a lot more money from this war by withdrawing troops much faster, particularly the increment called the surge starting in 2010. He basically gave General Petraeus most of what he wanted, despite the fact that you’re going to hear cries of pain from supporters of the military that he didn’t get everything. He wanted two full years of combat against the Taliban with the vast majority of the surge troops. He got one year and eight months, which, obviously, is roughly 80 percent of what he asked for. On the other hand, I think the—what I call the domestic faction of the Obama administration really lost out. They had hoped that the full increment, the surge increment of troops, 33,000, would be withdrawn this year, before the end of the year. And that was clearly a very major disappointment.

I think the second storyline is equally important, and that is that Obama likened the—what he called the “responsible” withdrawal from Afghanistan to what has been done in Iraq. And of course, that reminds us that what the President did in Iraq was to promise to withdraw combat troops, combat brigades, while in fact leaving them there well beyond the date that they were supposed to be withdrawn. So, I think we can look forward to, you know, beyond 2012, having combat troops continue to carry out the war, while the President is talking about withdrawing them. I think we’re in for a repeat of the Iraq experience there.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Gareth Porter, isn’t this an attempt by the President basically to control the narrative on this, to declare “mission accomplished” when the reality is that Afghanistan still is an extremely dangerous place and that the efforts of the administration to, quote, “pacify” the country have not succeeded, and then, two, to claim that the troops have been withdrawn, when they are going to be leaving a significant number of troops there for years to come?

GARETH PORTER: Well, absolutely. There is an effort here to create a narrative that, as he put it, the war is receding, the tide of war is receding, when in fact nothing of the sort is happening. I mean, clearly, the Taliban are carrying out counterattacks this year and will do so again next year. That’s not going to come to an end. His vague language in this regard is, I’m afraid, going to come back to bite him, because it’s going to become clear that he couldn’t deliver on that promise of sort of an ebbing of the tide of war.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And you’ve done research into the claims of General Petraeus back late last year about the number of Taliban killed or captured. Could you talk about that?

GARETH PORTER: Yes, this is really an important part of the narrative that General Petraeus has been very successful in creating about the success of the Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan, in which he claimed that over a 90-day period—this was the claim in August of 2010—that over a 90-day period, the Special Operations Forces had actually captured 1,355 rank-and-file Taliban. Now, that was in addition to claims of killing more than 1,000 Taliban rank and file, and capturing and killing 356 middle- and high-ranking Taliban.

Now, most of those claims, the claims about killing of Taliban, could not be fact-checked, but there was a way to fact-check the claim of capturing that many Taliban. And what I did was to obtain an unclassified paper from the task force responsible for detention affairs in Afghanistan, Task Force 435, which showed the monthly intake and release of prisoners to and from the main detention center at the Bagram Air Base called Parwan. And what it showed was that only 270 Afghans were admitted as supposed Taliban into the detention facility during those 90 days. And so, this is roughly 20 percent of the 1,355 claimed Taliban captives who turned out to be—who were not found to be civilians just in the first few days. But then, in subsequent months, another couple of hundred were released from the detention facility, and in the end, about 90 percent of those claimed to be captive Taliban were in fact found to be civilians.

AMY GOODMAN: Gareth Porter, we’ve been reporting for quite a while that the U.S. is talking with the Taliban. Well, in his speech, President Obama indicated the U.S. might negotiate with the Taliban to enable a lasting solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We do know peace cannot come to a land that has known so much war without a political settlement. So as we strengthen the Afghan government and security forces, America will join initiatives that reconcile the Afghan people, including the Taliban. Our position on these talks is clear: they must be led by the Afghan government, and those who want to be a part of a peaceful Afghanistan must break from al-Qaeda, abandon violence, and abide by the Afghan constitution. But, in part because of our military effort, we have reason to believe that progress can be made.

AMY GOODMAN: Gareth Porter, your quick response?

GARETH PORTER: Yeah, this is a statement of policy that essentially puts forward totally unrealistic negotiating aims. No one—no independent analyst of the Taliban really believes that they are going to cave in to pressure from the U.S. military to sit down and negotiate an agreement without a commitment by the United States in advance to a timetable for withdrawal. This, of course, is exactly what the Obama administration refuses to provide. So, this really reminds me, more than anything else, of the Lyndon Johnson administration’s position on negotiations in the spring of 1965, before there was any realism in the U.S. position at all.