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Revealed: How Big Oil Got Expedited Permitting for Fracking on Public Lands Into the Defense Bill

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The U.S. Senate has voted 89-11 to approve the Defense Authorization Act of 2015, following the December 4 U.S. House of Representatives' 300-119 up-vote and now awaits President Barack Obama's signature.

 Photo Credit: C-SPAN Screenshot

The 1,648-page piece of pork barrel legislation contains a provision — among other controversial measures — to streamline permitting for hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on U.S. public lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), a unit of the U.S. Department of Interior.

Buried on page 2,179 of the bill as Section 3021 and subtitled "Bureau of Land Management Permit Processing," the bill's passage has won praise from both the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) and comes on the heels of countries from around the world coming to a preliminary deal at the United Nations climate summit in Lima, Peru, to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

"We applaud the Senate...and are hopeful the president signs this measure in a timely fashion," said Dan Naatz, IPAA lobbyist and former congressional staffer, in a press release

Alluding to the bottoming out of the global price of oil, Naatz further stated, "In these uncertain times of price volatility, it’s encouraging for America’s job creators to have regulatory certainty through a streamlined permitting process.”

Streamlined permitting means faster turn-around times for the industry's application process to drill on public lands, bringing with it all of the air, groundwater and climate change issues that encompass the shale production process. 

At the bottom of the same press release, IPAA boasted of its ability to get the legislative proposal introduced initially by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) as the BLM Permit Processing Improvement Act of 2014 after holding an "educational meeting" with Udall's staffers. Endorsed by some major U.S. environmental groups, Udall took more than $191,000 from the oil and gas industry during his successful 2014 re-election campaign.

IPAA's publicly admitted influence-peddling efforts are but the tip of the iceberg for how Big Oil managed to stuff expedited permitting for fracking on U.S. public lands into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015.

Obama Signals Keystone XL "No" on Colbert Report As Enbridge "KXL Clone" He Permitted Opens

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In his December 8 "Colbert Report" appearance, President Barack Obama gave his strongest signal yet that he may reject a presidential permit authorizing the Alberta to Cushing, Oklahoma northern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. 

Photo Credit: Comedy Central Screenshot

Yet just a week earlier, and little noticed by comparison, the pipeline giant Enbridge made an announcement that could take the sails out of some of the excitement displayed by Obama's "Colbert Report" remarks on Keystone XL North. That is, Enbridge's "Keystone XL Clone" is now officially open for business. 

"Keystone XL Clone," as first coined here on DeSmogBlog, consists of three parts: the U.S.-Canada border-crossing Alberta Clipper pipeline; the Flanagan, Illinois to Cushing Flanagan South pipeline; and the Cushing to Freeport, Texas Seaway Twin pipeline.

Enbridge announced that Flanagan South and its Seaway Twin connection are now pumping tar sands crude through to the Gulf of Mexico, meaning game on for tar sands to flow from Alberta to the Gulf through Enbridge's pipeline system.

Alberta Clipper, now rebranded Line 67, was authorized by Hillary Clinton on behalf of the Obama State Department in August 2009 and got a quasi-official permit to expand its capacity by the State Department over the summer. That permit is now being contested in federal court by environmental groups.

Flanagan South, meanwhile, exists due to a legally contentious array of close to 2,000 Nationwide Permit 12 permits handed out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which — as with Alberta Clipper expansion — has helped Enbridge usurp the more democratic and transparent National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process

Like Canada's Harper Government, Obama Administration Muzzling Its Scientists

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In recent years, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for disallowing scientists working for the Canadian government to speak directly to the press

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State

An article published in August by The New Republic said "Harper's antagonism toward climate-change experts in his government may sound familiar to Americans," pointing to similar deeds done by the George W. Bush Administration. That article also said that "Bush's replacement," President Barack Obama, "has reversed course" in this area.

Society for Professional Journalists, the largest trade association for professional journalists in the U.S., disagrees with this conclusion. 

In a December 1 letter written to Gina McCarthy, administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the society chided the Obama administration for its methods of responding to journalists' queries to speak to EPA-associated scientists. 

"We write to urge you again to clarify that members of the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) and the twenty other EPA science advisory committees have the right and are encouraged to speak to the public and the press about any scientific issues, including those before these committees, in a personal capacity without prior authorization from the agency," said the letter.

"We urge you...to ensure that EPA advisory committee members are encouraged share their expertise and opinions with those who would benefit from it."

I’ve had it!: Eleven Reasons I’m Ashamed to be an American Citizen

By Dave Lindorff

 

I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good. 

 

I’ve had it!: Eleven Reasons I’m Ashamed to be an American Citizen

By Dave Lindorff

 

I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good. 

 

New Obama State Dept Top Energy Diplomat Amos Hochstein A Former Marathon Oil Lobbyist

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The U.S. State Department recently announced that Amos Hochstein, currently the special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs, will take over as the State Department's top international energy diplomat.

Amos Hochstein State Department

Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State

Hochstein will likely serve as a key point man for the U.S. in its negotiations to cut a climate change deal as part of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), both at the ongoing COP20 summit in Lima, Peru and next year's summit in Paris, France. Some conclude the Lima and Paris negotiations are a "last chance" to do something meaningful on climate change.

But before getting a job at the State Department, where Hochstein has worked since 2011, he worked as a lobbyist for the firm Cassidy & Associates. Cassidy's current lobbying client portfolio consists of several fossil fuel industry players, including Noble Energy, Powder River Energy and Transwest Express. 

Back when Hochstein worked for Cassidy, one of his clients was Marathon Oil, which he lobbied for in quarter two and quarter three of 2008, according to lobbying disclosure forms reviewed by DeSmogBlog.

Hochstein earned his firm $20,000 each quarter lobbying the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on behalf of Marathon. 


Image Credit: Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives

Environmental Groups File Motion to Intervene in Defense of Denton Fracking Ban

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Just days after attorneys representing Denton, Texas submitted their initial responses to two legal complaints filed against Denton — the first Texas city ever to ban hydraulic fracturing ("fracking")  environmental groups have filed an intervention petition. That is, a formal request to enter the two lawsuits filed against the city after its citizens voted to ban fracking on election day.

Denton Drilling Awareness Group and Earthworks are leading the intervention charge, represented by attorneys from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and EarthjusticeThe drilling awareness group runs the Frack Free Denton campaign.

Those groups have joined up with attorneys representing Denton to fight lawsuits filed against the city by both the Texas Oil and Gas Association and the Texas General Land Commission.

First Texas City to Ban Fracking Cites "Public Nuisance" in Lawsuit Response

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Attorneys representing Denton, Texas, the first city to ban hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in state history, have issued rebuttals to the two lawsuits filed against Denton the day after the fracking ban was endorsed by voters on election day. 

Responding to lawsuits brought by attorneys with intimate Bush family connections — with complaints coming from both the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association — the Denton attorneys have signaled the battle has only just begun in the city situated in the heart and soul of the Barnett Shale, the birthplace of fracking. 

In its response to the Texas Oil and Gas Association, Denton's attorneys argued the Association did not provide sufficient legal evidence that the Texas constitution demarcates the Texas Railroad Commission or the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as the only governmental bodies that can regulate or permit fracking.

"Nowhere in...the Petition as a whole, does Plaintiff identify what regulations have been passed by the Texas Railroad Commission or the Texas Commission or Environmental Quality that allegedly occupy the 'entire field' rendering the [ban] preempted and unconstitutional," wrote the attorneys. "City requests the Court to order Plaintiff to replead that claim with greater specificity to meet those fair notice requirements."

Industry-friendly Railroad Commission (RRC) chairman Christi Craddick is on the record stating that the RRC will continue to issue permits despite the fact Denton citizens voted for a ban.

The Denton attorneys also argued that fracking is a "public nuisance" and "subversive of public order" in defense of the fracking ban.

Talk Nation Radio: Stephen Nash on Climate Disruption in Virginia

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-stephen-nash-on-climate-disruption-in-virginia

Science now allows studies of climate change thus far and predictions of what is to come in specific areas. Stephen Nash's new book Virginia Climate Fever looks at the state of Virginia, and unless we radically change our ways it doesn't look good. Nash has reported on science, the environment, and other topics for The New York Times, The Washington Post, BioScience Magazine, The Scientist, The New Republic, and Archaeology. He is Visiting Senior Research Scholar at the University of Richmond, where he has taught in the journalism and environmental studies programs since 1980. He is the author of Blue Ridge 2020: An Owner’s Manual and Millipedes and Moon Tigers: Science and Policy in an Age of Extinction. More here: http://virginiaclimatefever.com

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Climate Change Challenges: Support the Environment or the U.S. Military?

By Kathy Kelly

Having lived through the 1991 Desert Storm bombing and the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing in Iraq, I tread carefully when speaking about any danger greater than war that children in our world might face.  I won’t forget children in Baghdadi hospitals whose bodies I have seen, wounded and maimed, after bombing campaigns ordered by U.S. leaders.  I think also of children in Lebanon and Gaza and Afghanistan, children I’ve sat with in cities under heavy bombardments while their frightened parents tried to distract and calm them.

Even so, it seems the greatest danger – the greatest violence – that any of us face is contained in our attacks on our environment. Today’s children and generations to follow them face nightmares of scarcity, disease, mass displacement, social chaos, and war, due to our patterns of consumption and pollution.

Ironically, one of the institutions in U.S. society which comprehends the disasters that loom is the U.S. military. 

In the past few years, the Pentagon has issued several reports which concur that the greatest threat to U.S. national security is posed by climate change and potential environmental disasters.   The reports show concern about how droughts, famines and natural disasters could cause conflicts leading to “food and water shortages, diseases, disputes over refugees and resources and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

The reports don’t acknowledge that the U.S. military has commandeered vast resources, in terms of money and scientific “know-how,” that are acutely needed for use in solving our global crisis.  These resources are steadily directed toward developing more weapons and fighting more wars. 

What’s more, the U.S. military, with its more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other facilities, worldwide, is one of the most egregious polluters on the planet and is the world’s largest single consumer of fossil fuels.

Its terrible legacy of forcing its own soldiers and their families, over decades, to drink lethally carcinogenic water on  bases that should have been evacuated as contaminated sites is covered in a recent Newsweek story.

Civilians drinking from wells around hundreds of U.S. military bases abroad can fare little better. 

In January of 2004, I visited a former Iraqi Air Defense Camp in Baghdad. Following the US led invasion of Iraq, at least 400 families moved into this camp. It became one of several similar vacated and bombed areas that were “squatted" by desperate people who preferred eking out an existence amid the wreckage to whatever misery they had left behind.

The children in the camp were  among the most endearing human beings I have ever encountered. They were shy, but smiling, friendly, and incredibly well behaved. The collapsed buildings and mounds of debris didn't seem to faze them, any more than the rusted tubes of the missiles that had collapsed the buildings. Several of these little builders worked industriously atop hills of rubble, their tiny hands digging for intact bricks. They would bring the bricks to their parents who used them to build new housing walls.

At least a dozen of the children had large red spots covering their faces. It could be that they had been bitten by fleas or suffered from scabies.   But we couldn’t help but wonder if they had been affected by contaminants from the bomb parts. A proper needs assessment of this new housing area should have been undertaken right away.  The new "householders" needed access to clean water, medical care, a clinic and a school. They needed peace.

The world needs peace in order to address catastrophic changes that are fast approaching us.  Yet, the U.S. public is seldom encouraged to link actual security with cooperative, diplomatic efforts to promote fair exchanges of resources.

Consider, for example, the U.S. military’s Asia Pivot strategy which aims to encircle China with military bases and threaten China’s ability to import and export resources.   Any rational plan for changing human consumption and pollution patterns should surely view China as a foremost global partner in devising new ways to halt global warming and negotiate fairly over consumption of resources.

The Asia Pivot plan instead reflects U.S. insistence on competing with China by controlling the pricing and flow of valuable minerals and fossil fuels found in the region.  It also seems to motivate U.S. determination to maintain at least nine U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, all the while insisting that the U.S. must have complete legal immunity against any Afghan government claims that the U.S. military has poisoned Afghan air, soil, or water.

To “market” such a plan, U.S. politicians and military planners must encourage the U.S. public to feel fearful and competitive.  Our fears and the longing for comfort, for status, which drives our consumption, blend seamlessly, one into the other.  We want all the wealth, and we want all the security.

Huddled over candles in the  terrifying nights of the U.S. “Shock and Awe”  war to “liberate” Iraq, shuddering from the thudding roar of the war exploding around us, my companions and I had talked about how we must work, in the future, not only to help rebuild Iraq but, even more crucially, to rebuild ourselves, our way of life.  We wouldn’t try to live forever at the expense of neglecting or killing our neighbors, including their children.   We would find ways to prevent a shockingly undemocratic U.S. from maintaining a vast military machine in constant short-term pursuit of either our exclusive wealth or our exclusive security.  Guided by the earnest resolve of the hopeful children moving one brick at a time amid the rubble, we’d work to build and be a better world.  

Kathy Kelly (Kathy@vcnv.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence (www.vcnv.org)

There Goes Virginia's Climate

A snowstorm is the ideal time to write about climate disruption, as it allows us to immediately set-aside the cartoonish claim that if any spot on earth isn't warmer than it was yesterday then all is well. The following things we know:

There are giant snowflakes falling outside my window.

Five-year averages of temperature in Virginia began a significant and steady increase in the early 1970s, rising from 54.6 degrees Fahrenheit then to 56.2 degrees F in 2012.

The Piedmont area, where I live, has seen the temperature rise at a rate of 0.53 degrees F per decade.

At this rate, Virginia will be as hot as South Carolina by 2050 and as northern Florida by 2100, and continuing at a steady or increasing pace from there.

Sixty percent of Virginia is forest, and forests cannot evolve or switch over to warmer-weather species at anything like that fast a pace. The most likely future is not pines or palm trees but wasteland.

From 1979 to 2003, excessive heat exposure contributed to over 8,000 premature deaths in the United States, more than all deaths from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined, and dramatically more than all deaths from terrorism.

Between 1948 and 2006 "extreme precipitation events" have increased 25% in Virginia. Precipitation in Virginia is likely to increase or decrease dramatically overall, and is extremely likely to continue the trend of arriving in ever more intense bursts of storms interrupting droughts. This will be devastating to agriculture.

Acidity in the ocean has already increased by 30 percent and if current trends continue will hit a 100 to 150 percent increase by 2100 and continue to spiral upward from there. Oysters' shells in the Chesapeake Bay have grown thinner as a result. The oyster population is 98 percent gone. Shell fish are becoming and will entirely become extinct, if current trends remain unaltered. By 2100 we can expect 60 to 100 percent of the world's coral reefs to be gone.

Fish off the Virginia coast are moving north and east to survive, some species having already vanished from Virginia waters either by migrating or dying out. In Virginia 46 percent of fish species, 25 percent of birds, 46 percent of reptiles, 43 percent of amphibians, and 28 percent of mammals are listed as threatened or endangered.

Seventy-eight percent of Virginians live within 20 miles of the Chesapeake, the Atlantic, or tidal rivers. On the Eastern Shore and in the Hampton Roads-Norfolk area, flooding has already become routine. The sea level will rise, if current trends continue, between 3 and 18 feet by 2100. Already it has risen an inch every 7 or 8 years -- 12 inches in the last century. Some 628,000 Virginians live within 6.5 feet of sea level. Paul Fraim, Mayor of Norfolk since 1994, says the city may need to soon establish "retreat zones" and abandon sections of the city as too costly to protect. Real estate agents are discussing the need to require disclosure of sea level as well as lead paint and other defects when selling property.

The famous ponies of Chincoteague live among trees killed and grasses weakened by risen saltwater, and will not live there much longer.

The U.S. military, headquartered largely in Virginia, the world's largest Navy base in Norfolk, and the swamp-built Capital of the United States in Washington, D.C., face potential devastation directly contributed to by the endless wars for oil, and the consumption of that oil, despite the widespread belief that the results of the wars are distant. Just as ice melting in Greenland lifts water onto the streets of Norfolk, investment of trillions of dollars in pointless death and destruction not only diverts resources from addressing climate damage but heavily contributes to that damage. The U.S. military would rank 38th in oil consumption if it were a nation.

If any image can wallop someone with the need to adjust our priorities it is one of Wallops Island just south of Chincoteague but protected for the moment by a $34 million rock wall.  Wallops Island hosts tests for the $4 billion crash-prone Osprey helicopter, and all sorts of war training, plus a space port from which multi-billionaires can blow themselves up or launch themselves into space to starve in tin cans literally as well as subjectively above the rest of us.

There is no Planet B. Nobody has found anywhere for humans to live apart from earth, at least not remotely in the time frame of the current crisis.

Virginia has taken in thousands of refugees from Hurricane Katrina and can expect to take in many more and to create many refugees itself. The only thinking that says every future Hurricane Sandy will miss Virginia is wishful thinking.

The warming will bring the mosquito varieties (already arriving) and diseases. Serious risks include malaria, Chagas disease, chikungunya virus, and dengue virus. Look them up. The television won't explain them until they're here.

Virginians, like others in the United States, consume vastly more energy and produce vastly more warming per capita than do people in other countries, including countries in Europe that they don't look down on. Proposals to actually halt the climate catastrophe generally call for Americans to start living like Europeans (the horror!).

Virginia's Constitution requires the state to "protect its atmosphere, lands, and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction, for the benefit, enjoyment and general welfare of the people." In a decent court system, any member of the public could have that enforced through a massive emergency Marshall-Plan effort to preserve our climate.

Virginia's Department of Environmental Quality does not concern itself with climate change.

Virginia lags significantly behind Maryland and North Carolina in addressing climate change.

Numerous reasonable steps can be quite easily taken if the political will is found, but they get harder with each passing year.

The financial corruption of state governments is not nearly as advanced as at the federal level, although some states lag behind the national average in intellectual awareness and enlightenment. The possibility certainly exists for Virginia to compete with Germany and Scandinavia in renewable energy, recycling, and reduced consumption.

If the day after being thankful for things, Virginians rush out to stores and buy crap, rather than rushing out to organize actions to save the climate, we will need to all be thankful we are not our kids or our grandkids. "Here's a plastic toy. Glad I'm not you!"

Apart from the snow outside my window and a few odd remarks like "stop shopping!" everything stated above is well documented in a new book called Virginia Climate Fever by Stephen Nash, for which I am thankful and which I hope every Virginian reads before New Year's resolution time.

"I Hate That Oil's Dropping": Why Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant Wants High Oil Prices for Fracking

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Outgoing Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) chairman Phil Bryant — Mississippi's Republican Governor — started his farewell address with a college football joke at IOGCC's recent annual conference in Columbus, Ohio.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

"As you know, I love SEC football. Number one in the nation Mississippi State, number three in the nation Ole Miss, got a lot of energy behind those two teams," Bryant said in opening his October 21 speech. "I try to go to a lot of ball games. It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it and somebody's gotta be there."

Seconds later, things got more serious, as Bryant spoke to an audience of oil and gas industry executives and lobbyists, as well as state-level regulators. 

At the industry-sponsored convening, which I attended on behalf of DeSmogBlog, it was hard to tell the difference between industry lobbyists and regulators. The more money pledged by corporations, the more lobbyists invited into IOGCC's meeting.

Perhaps this is why Bryant framed his presentation around "where we are headed as an industry," even though officially a statesman and not an industrialist, before turning to his more stern remarks.

"I know it's a mixed blessing, but if you look at some of the pumps in Mississippi, gasoline is about $2.68 and people are amazed that it's below $3 per gallon," he said.

"And it's a good thing for industry, it's a good thing for truckers, it's a good thing for those who move goods and services and products across the waters and across the lands and we're excited about where that's headed."

Bryant then discussed the flip side of the "mixed blessing" coin.

"Of course the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale has a little problem with that, so as with most things in life, it's a give and take," Bryant stated. "It's very good at one point and it's helping a lot of people, but on the other side there's a part of me that goes, 'Darn! I hate that oil's dropping, I hate that it's going down.' I don't say that out-loud, but just to those in this room."

Tuscaloosa Marine Shale's "little problem" reflects a big problem the oil and gas industry faces — particularly smaller operators involved with hydraulic fracturing ("fracking")  going forward.

That is, fracking is expensive and relies on a high global price of oil. A plummeting price of oil could portend the plummeting of many smaller oil and gas companies, particularly those of the sort operating in the Tuscaloosa Marine.

Introducing “Natural Gas Exports: Washington’s Revolving Door Fuels Climate Threat”

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

DeSmogBlog's Steve Horn and Republic Report's Lee Fang have co-written an in-depth report on the influence the government-industry revolving door has had on Big Oil's ability to obtain four liquefied natural gas (LNG) export permits since 2012 from the Obama Administration.

 Photo Credit: DeSmogBlog

Titled "Natural Gas Exports: Washington's Revolving Door Fuels Climate Threat," the report published here on DeSmogBlog and on Republic Report serves as the launching pad of an ongoing investigation. It will act as the prelude of an extensive series of articles by both websites uncovering the LNG exports influence peddling machine. 

The report not only exposes the lobbying apparatus that has successfully opened the door for LNG exports, but also the PR professionals paid to sell them to the U.S. public. It also exposes those who have gone through the "reverse revolving door," moving from industry back to government and sometimes back again.

It reveals that many former Obama Administration officials now work as lobbyists or PR professionals on behalf of the LNG exports industry, as do many former Bush Administration officials. So too do those with ties to potential 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. 

They include:

State Dept. Keystone XL North Contractor ERM Approved Project Now Melting Glaciers

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A controversial government contractor once again finds itself in hot water, or in this case, melting glacier water.

TransCanada chose Environmental Resources Management Group (ERM) as one of its contractors to conduct the environmental impact statement for Keystone XL on behalf of the U.S. State Department. ERM Group also happens to have green-lighted a gold mining project in central Asia that is now melting glaciers.

ERM Group has a penchant for rubber-stamping projects that have had tragic environmental and public health legacies. For example, ERM formerly worked on behalf of the tobacco industry to pitch the safety of its deadly product.

A January 2014 study about Keystone XL's climate change impacts published in the journal Nature Climate Change paints a drastically different picture than ERM Group's Keystone XL tar sands study.

The Kumtor Gold Mineowned by Centerra Gold/Cameco Corporation, was provided a stamp of approval from ERM Group in October 2012. Similar to the TransCanada arrangement with the State Department on Keystone XL, Centerra served as the funder of the report evaluating its own project. 

ERM Group Melting Glaciers

"The mine sits at an altitude of 4,000 meters above sea level, in the Tien Shan mountain range and among some of Kyrgyzstan's - and the region's - most important glaciers," explained an October 28 story published in Asia Times.

"Centerra Gold has consistently dismissed as untrue that operations at Kumtor have had negative implications for the glaciers, which are reportedly melting with observable speed due to years of dumping rock tailings onto the ice sheet. The Canadian company has backed its position with expert evaluations from consultancies such as Environmental Resources Management." 

Talk Nation Radio: Leslie Cagan on Climate and Peace Activism

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-leslie-cagan-on-climate-and-peace-activism

Leslie Cagan has worked in a wide range peace and social justice movements for almost 50 years: from the Vietnam war to racism at home, from nuclear disarmament to lesbian/gay liberation, from fighting sexism to working against U.S. military intervention. Most recently, Leslie was co-coordinator of the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21, 2014, which brought 400,000 people into the streets of NYC demanding action on the global climate crisis. Leslie helped create and served as the National Coordinator of United for Peace and Justice, a coalition that grew to over 1,400 member groups. She discusses her recent activism and what we can do going forward.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

Something to Remember on Veterans Day: Washington's Foreign Wars

Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War

Remembrance Day, November 11, was established to mark and mourn the 20 million deaths that occurred during WWI. Unlike most nations, the US has shifted the original focus of the commemoration from the victims of war to the practitioners -- US soldiers, living and dead.

Before there was a 'Veterans Day' -- complete with flags and marches to celebrate aging soldiers -- November 11 was an international day of peace. Ninety-six years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, fighting ceased in the "war to end all wars." Congress passed an Armistice Day resolution calling for "exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding . . . inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples." November 11th was to be "a day dedicated to the cause of world peace."

Something that should be remembered on "Veterans Day" is the long list of foreign countries that the US has attacked, invaded and occupied over the past two centuries. Here is a partial list of some of the foreign lands Washington has invaded since America's founding in 1776. Countries attacked since the outbreak of "The War to End All Wars," 100 years ago, are highlighted in bold:

 

• French Territory (1798)

• Libya (1801-05; 1981; 1986; 1989)

• Spanish Mexico (1806)

• Britain (in the War of 1812)

• Marquesas Island (1813)

• French, British and Spanish Caribbean (1814-1825)

• Algiers and Tripoli (1815)

• Spanish Cuba (1822-1825)

• Greece (1827; 1947-49)

• Falkland/Malvinas Islands (1831)

• Sumatra (1832; 1838)

• Argentina (1833; 1890)

• Peru (1835-1836)

• Mexico (1836; 1846-48; 1859; 1876; 1913' 1914; 1915-16)

• Canada (1837)

• Fiji (1840-41; 1858)

• Samoa (1841; 1885; 1888; 1889; 1899)

• China (1843; 1859; 1866; 1894-1895; 1900; 1911-1941; 1927-1927; 1927-1934; 1934; 1940-34; 1934; 1946-49)

• Ivory Coast (1843)

• Ottoman Empire/Turkey (1849)

• Nicaragua (1854; 1867; 1894; 1896; 1898; 1899; 1907; 1910; 1912-1933)

• Japan (1854; 1863; 1864; 1868; 1981-1990)

• Uruguay (1855; 1868)

• Columbia (1856; 1860; 1865; 1866; 1870; 1873; 1885; 1895; 1901; 1902; 1903)

• Hawaii (1856; 1874; 1887; 1893)

• Paraguay (1859)

• Portuguese West Africa (1860)

• Formosa Island/Taiwan (1867)

• Midway Island (1867)

• Korea (1871; 1894-1896; 1904-05; 1950-53).

• British Egypt (1882)

• Haiti (1888; 1891; 1914-1934; 1959; 1991; 1994-96; 2004)

• Chile (1891; 1973)

• Guam (1898; 1903)

• Cuba (1898; 1906-09; 1912; 1917-1933; 1933; 1961; 1962)

• Puerto Rico (1898)

· Philippines (1898; 1899; 1948-54; 1989)

· Panama (1901; 1902; 1903; 1908; 1912; 1918-1920; 1925; 1958; 1964; 1989-1990)

· Honduras (1903; 1907; 1911; 1912; 1919; 1924-25; 1983-89)

· Dominican Republic (1903; 1914; 1916-1924; 1965)

· Russia (1918-1922)

· Yugoslavia (1919)

· Guatemala (1920; 1954; 1966-67)

· Turkey (1922)

· El Salvador (1932; 1981-1992)

· Iran (1946; 1953; 1980; 1984; 1987-1988)

· Italy (1948)

· Vietnam (1954; 1960-64; 1965-1975)

· Lebanon (1958; 1982-1984)

· Congo (1960; 1965)

· Laos (1962; 1965-73; 1971-73)

· Ecuador (1963)

· Brazil (1964)

· Indonesia (1965)

· Ghana (1966)

· Cambodia (1969-75; 1975)

· Oman (1970)

· Angola (1976-92)

· Iran (1980)


· Libya (1981)


· Grenada (1983)

· Lebanon (1983)


· Bolivia (1986)

· Libya (1986)


· Iran (1987-1988)


· Libya (1989)


· Liberia (1990; 1997)

· Iraq (1990-91; 1991-2003; 1998; 2003-6)

· Saudi Arabia (1991)


· Kuwait (1991)


· Somalia (1992-1994)


· Yugoslavia (1992-94; 1999)


· Bosnia (1993-95)

· Croatia (1995)

· Saudi Arabia (1996)


· Zaire (1996-97)

· Sudan (1998)

· Afghanistan (1998; 2001-)


· Kosovo (1999)


· Yemen (2000)


· Macedonia (2001)

· Philippines (2002-)


· Yemen (2002-)


· Colombia (2003)


· Iraq (2003)


· Liberia (2003)


· Pakistan (2004-)


· Haiti (2004 – 2005)


· Pakistan (2005-)


· Somalia (2007-)


· Syria (2008)


· Yemen (2009)


· Libya (2011)


· Iraq (2014-)


· Syria (2014-)

 

And How Many of These Nations Are Now Thriving 'Democracies'?

If there were any truth to the myth that the US uses its military might to promote democracy around the world, the most democratic countries on Earth would be the countries the US has spent the most time invading. By this reasoning, the most democratic nations on Earth would be:

• Honduras (7 interventions)

• Haiti (7)

• Cuba (7)

• Mexico (7)

• Nicaragua (9)

• Panama (10)

• Colombia (11)

• China (12)

Victory for Beyond Extreme Energy at FERC

By Ted Glick

“The people gonna rise like the waters,
Gonna calm this crisis down.
I hear the voice of my great granddaughter
Saying shut FERC down right now.”

Who would have thought it? On Friday morning, November 7th, for 2 ½
hours, the determined and courageous nonviolent activists of Beyond
Extreme Energy shut down the DC headquarters of the Federal Energy
Regulatory Commission, FERC.
All three entrances to the building were successfully blockaded, and
virtually no one was getting in.

By 9 am there were about 150 FERC employees massed on the sidewalks in
front of FERC, waiting for the police to clear away five fracking
fighters who had successfully locked down at 7 am with lock boxes
across the driveway into the FERC parking garage. The driveway had
been the route used by police to funnel FERC employees into the
building for the four days previous when BXE activists had
successfully blockaded the two pedestrian entrances.

For short periods of time during those four days, no more than for
maybe 20 minutes at a time, we had been able to prevent pedestrian use
of that driveway (we prevented car use for the entire week). We did so
by forming a long enough line of people to prevent anyone getting
through, until the cops moved in and made arrests after their required
three warnings. About 70 people were arrested over the course of the
week.

But Friday morning was different. And because of the successful lock
box action and total blockade, it was different in a way none of the
BXE organizers had even thought about.

Friday was the day for additional fracktivists and extractivists from
the severely fracked-up state of Pennsylvania to join BXE. So as those
150 FERC employees waited to get into the building, we organized a
teach-in on the front sidewalk, right in the midst of the employees.
For fifteen or twenty minutes people like Maggie Henry and Veronica
Coptis spoke from the heart, shedding tears but fighting through them,
to let the silent and listening FERC employees know the human toll
that their support of the gas rush has caused. There were no catcalls,
no boos, no one publicly questioning the truth of what was being said.

It was a very special moment.

We had been talking with and distributing material to FERC employees
and others passing by all week. The leaflet we distributed to FERC
employees said, in part:

“We apologize for any disruption to your work day, but that’s what
we’re here for—to disrupt the workings of FERC, which continues to
approve gas infrastructure projects that threaten the health and
quality of life for millions of Americans and the whole planet through
increased greenhouse gas emissions.

“Many of you work at FERC because you think it does a good job of
balancing the needs of industry and economic development with the
health and environmental challenges of impacted communities. But the
Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ strategy is condemning us to
runaway climate chaos while condemning families in fracking’s path to
a hellish existence. FERC should be prioritizing the emergence of
renewable energy as a growing sources of our electrical power.”

We found surprisingly little hostility from the close to 2,000 people
we distributed our flyers to. We even found, to our surprise,
indications of support from some of the Federal Protective Services
and DC Metro police who were doing their best to keep FERC open
despite our blockading. Going into the week, our lawyer had said to us
that he expected that they would get more aggressive as the week went
by, but that turned out, in general and with exceptions, not to be the
case.

Exceptions included a couple of people tasered on Friday after we
heard talk of it earlier in the week, several people falsely charged
with “assault” for standing their nonviolent ground as part of a
blockade and some police assistance to a small number of aggressive
FERC employees who tried to push through us.

Central to the success of this action were the sisters and brothers
from the Great March for Climate Action who were there for all, or
most, of the week. The decision to do this action during election week
had a lot to do with the plan of the Great March to arrive in DC on
November 1, ending on that day their eight month walk across the
United States. Many of us not part of that march were impressed by the
depth of commitment and soulful strength and organizing smarts they
collectively brought to the November 1-7 week.

We received more than a little bit of criticism about our decision to
do this week during election week, and we understood why. We were not
doing this to make a statement about how messed up our electoral
system is and that people should forget voting—not at all. In our call
to action we said, right up at the top, “vote we must, but we must
also do more.” If the Great March had not been arriving on November 1
we probably would have moved things back a week or two.

But as it turns out, it was very timely that Beyond Extreme Energy did
happen during election week, during a week when the Republicans took
back the Senate and Democrats generally did pretty badly—in large part
because of the willingness of far too many, once again, to be
Republicans-lite.

It is time, in 2015 and 2016, for many, many more of us to “vote” with
our whole lives through massive, serious, strategic nonviolent direct
action campaigns that are as coordinated as we can make them.
Investors in the fossil fuel industry, Democrats and others who want
our votes, members of the mass media and the American people generally
need to get it that the climate justice movement, increasingly aligned
with other movements for progressive social change, refuses to accept
“all of the above” and “business as usual.” We know what time it
is—there is little time left—and we are the leaders we have been
waiting for. Now must be, has to be, our time to rise up in large
numbers and with a spirit of love, a nonviolent discipline and a
willingness to sacrifice that cannot be ignored.

Ted Glick was one of the organizers of Beyond Extreme Energy,
representing the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Past writings and
other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and at twitter
at http://twitter.com/jtglick.

Bush Family, Inner Circle at Center of Lawsuits vs. Denton, TX Fracking Ban<p>On November 4, <a href="http://www.desmogblog.com/

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

George P. Bush; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On November 4, Denton, Texas, became the first city in the state to ban the process of hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") when 59 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of the initiative. It did so in the heart of the Barnett Shale basin, where George Mitchell — the "father of fracking" — drilled the first sample wells for his company Mitchell Energy.

As promised by the oil and gas industry and by Texas Railroad Commission commissioner David Porter, the vote was met with immediate legal backlash. Both the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA) filed lawsuits in Texas courts within roughly 12 hours of the vote taking place, the latest actions in the aggressive months-long campaign by the industry and the Texas state government to fend off the ban.

The Land Office and TXOGA lawsuits, besides making similar legal arguments about state law preempting local law under the Texas Constitution, share something else in common: ties to former President George W. Bush and the Bush family at large.

In the Land Office legal case, though current land commissioner Jerry Patterson signed off on the lawsuit, he will soon depart from office. And George Prescott Bush — son of former Florida Governor and prospective 2016 Republican Party presidential nominee Jeb Bush and nephew of former President George W. Bush — will take his place.

George P. Bush won his land commissioner race in a landslide, gaining 61 percent of the vote. Given the cumbersome and lengthy nature of litigation in the U.S., it appears the Land Office case will have only just begun by the time Bush assumes the office.

The TXOGA legal complaint was filed by a powerful team of attorneys working at the firm Baker Botts, the international law firm named after the familial descendants of James A. Baker III, a partner at the firm.

Baker III served as chief-of-staff under both President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, Secretary of State under George H.W. Bush and as a close advisor to President George W. Bush on the U.S. occupation of Iraq. He gave George P. Bush a $10,000 donation for his campaign for his race for land commissioner.

James A. Baker III Campaign Contribution George P. Bush

Photo Credit: Texas Land Commission

The Energy Policy Act of 2005which exempts the oil and gas industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act for fracking, is seen by critics as the legacy of ashes left behind by the George W. Bush Administration.

Yet almost a decade later, the two lawsuits filed against Denton show the Bush oil and gas legacy clearly lives on and stretches from the state where the fracking industry was born all the way to Iraq and back again. 

Depleted Uranium & Other Demented U.S. Weapons

Because antiwar activists and medical humanitarians are pushing the issue, the United Nations will be discussing the U.S. use of depleted uranium in weapons, particularly in Iraq, even as the U.S. military makes plans to use them again in the new campaign of bombings. We call your attention to these developments.  Our friend Dr. Mozhgan Savabiesfahani, a toxicologist, is studying the environmental destruction of Iraq during the U.S.

New Poem by ThisCantBeHappening!'s resident poet Gary Lindorff: Black River

Ebola, “Black River”,

Thank-you for giving your name

To a killer virus.

Those scientists, those doctors,

The ones who discovered the germ,

They looked at a map

Federal Reserve Policy Keeps Fracking Bubble Afloat and That May Change Soon

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

In August 2005, the U.S. Congress and then-President George W. Bush blessed the oil and gas industry with a game-changer: the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The Act exempted the industry from federal regulatory enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Drilling Deeper: New Report Casts Doubt on Fracking Production Numbers

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Post Carbon Institute has published a report and multiple related resources calling into question the production statistics touted by promoters of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)

By calculating the production numbers on a well-by-well basis for shale gas and tight oil fields throughout the U.S., Post Carbon concludes that the future of fracking is not nearly as bright as industry cheerleaders suggest. The report, “Drilling Deeper: A Reality Check on U.S. Government Forecasts for a Lasting Tight Oil & Shale Gas Boom,” authored by Post Carbon fellow J. David Hughes, updates an earlier report he authored for Post Carbon in 2012.

Hughes analyzed the production stats for seven tight oil basins and seven gas basins, which account for 88-percent and 89-percent of current shale gas production.

Among the key findings: 

-By 2040, production rates from the Bakken Shale and Eagle Ford Shale will be less than a tenth of that projected by the Energy Department. For the top three shale gas fields — the Marcellus Shale, Eagle Ford and Bakken — production rates from these plays will be about a third of the EIA forecast.

-The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale oil basins measured for the report range from an astounding 60-percent to 91-percent. That means over those three years, the amount of oil coming out of the wells decreases by that percentage. This translates to 43-percent to 64-percent of their estimated ultimate recovery dug out during the first three years of the well's existence.

-Four of the seven shale gas basins are already in terminal decline in terms of their well productivity: the Haynesville Shale, Fayetteville Shale, Woodford Shale and Barnett Shale.

-The three year average well decline rates for the seven shale gas basins measured for the report ranges between 74-percent to 82-percent. 

-The average annual decline rates in the seven shale gas basins examined equals between 23-percent and 49-percent. Translation: between one-quarter and one-half of all production in each basin must be replaced annually just to keep running at the same pace on the drilling treadmill and keep getting the same amount of gas out of the earth.

Talk Nation Radio: Randall Amster on Peace Ecology

https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/talk-nation-radio-randall-amster-on-peace-ecology

Randall Amster discusses his book Peace Ecology. Amster is Director of the Program on Justice and Peace at Georgetown University, and Executive Director of the Peace and Justice Studies Association.

Total run time: 29:00

Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.

Download from Archive or LetsTryDemocracy.

Pacifica stations can also download from AudioPort.

Syndicated by Pacifica Network.

Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!

Please embed the SoundCloud audio on your own website!

Past Talk Nation Radio shows are all available free and complete at
http://TalkNationRadio.org

and at
https://soundcloud.com/davidcnswanson/tracks

The Conscience of a Moderate

Angels by the River: A Memoir by James Gustave Speth is pleasantly written but painful to read. Speth knew about the dangers of global warming before the majority of today's climate change deniers were born. He was an advisor to President Jimmy Carter and advised him and the public to address the matter before it became a crisis.

Carter and the U.S. capital of his day weren't about to take the sort of action needed. Remember, Carter was despised for a speech promoting green energy and celebrated for a speech declaring that the United States would always go to war over Middle Eastern oil. Ronald Reagan and his followers (in every sense) Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama wouldn't come within 10 miles of a reasonable approach to climate.  But Speth has spent the decades since the Carter administration trying to maintain a career within the system, a choice that he acknowledges has required compromises. Now he's pushing for radical change and takes himself to be a radical because he was arrested at the White House opposing a tar sands pipeline.

Here's a photo of Speth at the White House wearing the campaign symbol of the man at whose house he was protesting (Speth doesn't discuss the uniqueness of this form of opposition).

Speth writes as if President Obama were trying to protect the planet from Republicans, in contrast to the real-life Obama who has sabotaged climate talks in Copenhagen and at other summits over the years. Speth gives Democrats a pass, promotes electoral work, pushes nationalism, and believes the world needs U.S. leadership to address climate change. I think the evidence is clear that the world would be fairly well along if the United States would just stay out of the way and stop leading the destruction.

This image is from a recent report by the Institute for Policy Studies.

Speth's book tells a story of racist and sexist Agrarians who wanted to resist corporatism but didn't really do so; of "moderates" who blandly hinted at opposing segregation but didn't; of a Carter White House that didn't act; of a Clinton Administration that decided against even pretending to act; of a statement Speth wrote immediately after September 11, 2001, in which he took a both-and position, supporting both insane war and sane peaceful policies; and of the age of Obama in which one admits that the facts demand swift radical change while embracing lesser-evilism, not in voting but in activism and speech (that inevitable tendency being the main reason some of us oppose it in voting).

Of course I'm being unfair and Speth won't necessarily have any idea what I'm talking about. He doesn't have a chapter dedicated to nationalism, he just frames all of his proposals in terms of being a good patriot and fixing one's country -- even though the problem facing us is global. And when he worked in the Carter Administration he actually did good work and got things done. We celebrate -- hell, we practically worship -- whistleblowers who spent decades doing bad work, murderous work, before speaking out. Here's a man who did good work, who nudged things in a better direction for decades, before speaking out in the way he does now. With most people contributing little or nothing to the sustainability of the planet, and with radicals living through decades of failure just the same as moderates, Speth is not someone to criticize. And his book is quite valuable. I just want to nudge him a bit further.

Speth's account of his childhood in South Carolina is charming and wise. His account of unfulfilled dreams for the South and of undesirable Southern influence on the rest of the country is powerful. Instead of losing its bigotry, the South took on the North's consumerism. Instead of losing its consumerism, the North took on the South's reactionary politics, including what Speth calls "antipathy toward the federal government" -- I would add: except for that 53% of it that's dedicated to killing foreigners. Speth's account of the Nashville Agrarians' opposition to corporate consumerism is valuable. It's not that nobody knew; it's that not enough people acted. Of course, with my focus on the problem of war (which somehow, at best, squeezes into the last item on each of Speth's lists of issues) I'm brought back to wondering where we would be if slavery had been ended differently. I know that we're supposed to cheer for the Civil War even though other nations (and Washington D.C.) used compensated emancipation and skipped war. I know we're supposed to repeat to ourselves over and over "It's not Lincoln's fault, the slave owners wanted war." Well, indeed they did, but what if they hadn't? Or what if the recruits had refused to fight it for them? Or what if the North had let the South leave? It's difficult to bring up such questions while simultaneously convincing the reader that you know none of this actually happened. So, for what it's worth: I'm aware that's not how it happened; hence the need to bring it up. As it is, Vietnam has gotten over the war of the 1960s, and the U.S. South can, at long last, get over the war of the 1860s if it chooses to.

Speth was a founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council which helped win important struggles to halt a major expansion of nuclear power, to implement the Clean Water Act, and to protect wetlands. He also did great work at the World Resources Institute. Yet, he writes, there have been countless victories during an ongoing major defeat. "Our environmental organizations have grown in strength and sophistication, but the environment has continued to go downhill. The prospect of a ruined planet is now very real. We have won many victories, but we are losing the planet." Speth recounts the perils of working as a D.C. insider: "Once there, inside the system, we were compelled to a certain tameness by the need to succeed there. We opted to work within the system of political economy that we found, and we neglected to seek transformation of the system itself." And of being a global insider: "Thus far, the climate convention is not protecting climate, the biodiversity convention is not protecting biodiversity, the desertification convention is not preventing desertification, and even the older and stronger Convention on the Law of the Sea is not protecting fisheries."

Speth's conclusion is not entirely unlike Naomi Klein's. Speth writes in this book: "In short, most environmental deterioration is a result of systemic failures of the capitalism that we have today, and long-term solutions must seek transformative change in the key features of this contemporary capitalism." Klein quotes Speth in her book: "We didn't adjust with Reagan. We kept working within a system but we should have tried to change the system and root causes."

Combat vs. The Climate: The Military and Climate Security Budgets Compared

A new report connects U.S. military engagement and the threat of climate change.

 
The report argues that a change from security spending is not commensurate with the role U.S. military strategy now assigns to climate change: as a major threat to U.S. security.
As the U.S. debates the President’s plan for new military engagement, hundreds of thousands converged on New York to urge the world’s nations to take stronger action against the threat of climate change.  A new report connects these two issues, and finds that the gap between U.S. spending on traditional instruments of military force and on averting climate catastrophe has narrowed slightly.  Between 2008 and 2013, the proportion of security spending on climate change grew from 1% of military spending to 4%.
The report argues that a change from 1% to 4% of security spending is not commensurate with the role U.S. military strategy now assigns to climate change: as a major threat to U.S. security. Nor is it remotely sufficient to bring greenhouse gas emissions under control.
The U.S. balance between military and climate security spending compares unfavorably to the record of its nearest “peer competitor,” China.  Although China’s environmental record is unquestionably problematic, it strikes a far better balance than the U.S. in the allocation of its spending on military force and on climate change.  Its climate security spending, at $162 billion, nearly equals its military spending, at $188.5 billion.
Other Key Findings:
  • The balance in the area of international assistance has not improved.  The U.S. actually increased its military aid to other countries from 2008-2013, relative to the help it gave them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
  • For the price of four Littoral Combat Ships — currently there are 16 more in the budget than the Pentagon even wants — we could have double the Energy Department’s entire budget for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • The U.S. currently spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined. The disparity between U.S. military spending and the countries presumed to be threats to our security is even more extreme.
© 2014 Institute for Policy Studies

Overlooking the Obvious With Naomi Klein

By CRAIG COLLINS, CounterPunch

First off, I want to congratulate Naomi Klein on her inspiring book.  This Changes Everything has helped her readers better understand the germination of a broad based, multi-dimensional climate movement from the ground up and its potential to galvanize and revitalize the Left.  Also, she’s shown the courage to name the source of the problem—capitalism—when so many activists shrink from mentioning the “c” word.  In addition, her focus on the fossil fuel industry as the strategic target of the movement clearly highlights the importance of isolating one of the most malignant sectors of industrial capitalism.

But despite her insightful and inspirational treatment of the climate movement’s potential to change everything, I believe Klein over-states her case and overlooks crucial features of the dangerously dysfunctional system we’re up against.  By putting climate change on a pedestal, she limits our understanding of how to break capitalism’s death grip over our lives and our future.

For instance, Klein ignores the deep connection between climate chaos, militarism, and war.  While she spends an entire chapter explaining why Virgin Airlines owner, Richard Branson, and other Green billionaires won’t save us, she devotes three meager sentences to the most violent, wasteful, petroleum-burning institution on Earth—the US military.[1]  Klein shares this blind spot with the United Nations’ official climate forum.  The UNFCCC excludes most of the military sector’s fuel consumption and emissions from national greenhouse gas inventories.[2]  This exemption was the product of intense lobbying by the United States during the Kyoto negotiations in the mid-1990s.  Ever since, the military establishment’s carbon “bootprint” has been officially ignored.[3]  Klein’s book lost an important opportunity to expose this insidious cover-up.

The Pentagon is not only the largest institutional burner of fossil fuels on the planet; it is also the top arms exporter and military spender.[4]  America’s global military empire guards Big Oil’s refineries, pipelines, and supertankers.  It props up the most reactionary petro-tyrannies; devours enormous quantities of oil to fuel its war machine; and spews more dangerous toxins into the environment than any corporate polluter.[5]  The military, weapons producers, and the petroleum industry have a long history of corrupt collaboration.  This odious relationship stands out in bold relief in the Middle East where Washington arms the region’s repressive regimes with the latest weaponry and imposes a phalanx of bases where American soldiers, mercenaries, and drones are deployed to guard the pumps, refineries, and supply lines of Exxon-Mobil, BP, and Chevron.[6]

The petro-military complex is the most costly, destructive, anti-democratic sector of the corporate state.  It wields tremendous power over Washington and both political parties.  Any movement to counteract climate chaos, transform our energy future, and strengthen grassroots democracy cannot ignore America’s petro-empire.  Yet oddly enough when Klein looks for ways to finance the transition to a renewable energy infrastructure in the US, the bloated military budget is not considered.[7]

The Pentagon itself openly recognizes the connection between climate change and war.  In June, a US Military Advisory Board’s report on National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change warned that “…the projected impacts of toxicloopclimate change will be more than threat multipliers; they will serve as catalysts for instability and conflict.”  In response, the Pentagon is gearing up to fight “climate wars” over resources threatened by atmospheric disruption, like fresh water, arable land, and food.[8]

Even though Klein overlooks the connection between militarism and climate change and ignores the peace movement as an essential ally, the peace movement isn’t ignoring climate change.  Anti-war groups like Veterans for Peace, War Is A Crime, and the War Resisters League have made the connection between militarism and climate disruption a focus of their work.  The climate crisis was a pressing concern of hundreds of peace activists from around the world who gathered in Capetown, South Africa in July 2014.  Their conference, organized by War Resisters International, addressed non-violent activism, the impact of climate change, and the rise of militarism around the world.[9]

Klein says she thinks climate change has a unique galvanizing potential because it presents humanity with an “existential crisis.”  She sets out to show how it can change everything by weaving “all of these seemingly disparate issues into a coherent narrative about how to protect humanity from the ravages of a savagely unjust economic system and a destabilized climate system.”  But then her narrative ignores militarism almost entirely.  This gives me pause.  Can any progressive movement protect the planet without connecting the dots between climate chaos and war or confronting this petro-military empire head on?  If the US and other governments go to war over the planet’s shrinking reserves of energy and other resources, should we keep our focus locked on climate change, or should resisting resource wars become our most immediate concern?

Another important blind spot in Klein’s book is the issue of “peak oil.”  This is the point when the rate of petroleum extraction has maxed out and begins to terminally decline.  By now it’s become widely accepted that global CONVENTIONAL oil production peaked around 2005.[10]  Many believe this produced the high oil prices that triggered the 2008 recession and instigated the latest drive to extract expensive, dirty unconventional shale oil and tar sands once the price point finally made them profitable.[11]

Although some of this extraction is a heavily subsidized, financially speculative bubble that may soon prove over-inflated, the temporary influx of unconventional hydrocarbons has given the economy a brief respite from recession.  However, conventional oil production is predicted to drop by over 50 percent in the next two decades while unconventional sources are unlikely to replace any more than 6 percent.[12]  So the global economic breakdown may soon return with a vengeance.

The peak oil predicament raises important movement-building issues for climate activists and all progressives.  Klein may have avoided this issue because some folks in the peak oil crowd downplay the need for a powerful climate movement.  Not that they think climate disruption isn’t a serious problem, but because they believe we are nearing a global industrial collapse brought on by a sharp reduction in the net hydrocarbons available for economic growth.  In their estimation, global fossil fuel supplies will drop dramatically relative to rising demand because society will require ever-increasing amounts of energy just to find and extract the remaining dirty, unconventional hydrocarbons.

Thus, even though there may still be enormous amounts of fossil energy underground, society will have to devote ever-greater portions of energy and capital just to get at it, leaving less and less for everything else.  Peak oil theorists think this energy and capital drain will devastate the rest of the economy.  They believe this looming breakdown may do far more to cut carbon emissions than any political movement.  Are they right?  Who knows?  But even if they’re wrong about total collapse, peak hydrocarbons are bound to trigger escalating recessions and accompanying drops in carbon emissions.  What will this mean for the climate movement and its galvanizing impact on the Left?

Klein herself acknowledges that, so far, the biggest reductions in GHG emissions have come from economic recessions, not political action.  But she avoids the deeper question this raises: if capitalism lacks the abundant, cheap energy needed to sustain growth, how will the climate movement respond when stagnation, recession, and depression become the new normal and carbon emissions begin falling as a result?

Klein sees capitalism as a relentless growth machine wreaking havoc with the planet.  But capitalism’s prime directive is profit, not growth.  If growth turns to contraction and collapse, capitalism won’t evaporate.  Capitalist elites will extract profits from hoarding, corruption, crisis, and conflict.  In a growth-less economy, the profit motive can have a devastating catabolic impact on society.  The word “catabolism” comes from the Greek and is used in biology to refer to the condition whereby a living thing feeds on itself.  Catabolic capitalism is a self-cannibalizing economic system.  Unless we free ourselves from its grip, catabolic capitalism becomes our future.

Capitalism’s catabolic implosion raises important predicaments that climate activists and the Left must consider.  Instead of relentless growth, what if the future becomes a series of energy-induced economic breakdowns–a bumpy, uneven, stair-step tumble off the peak oil plateau?  How will a climate movement respond if credit freezes, financial assets vaporize, currency values fluctuate wildly, trade shuts down, and governments impose draconian measures to maintain their authority?  If Americans can’t find food in the supermarkets, money in the ATMs, gas in the pumps, and electricity in the power lines, will climate be their central concern?

Global economic seizures and contractions would radically reduce hydrocarbon use, causing energy prices to tumble temporarily.  In the midst of deep recession and dramatic reductions in carbon emissions would climate chaos remain a central public concern and a galvanizing issue for the Left?  If not, how would a progressive movement centered on climate change maintain its momentum?  Will the public be receptive to calls for curbing carbon emissions to save the climate if burning cheaper hydrocarbons seems like the fastest way to kick start growth, no matter how temporary?

Under this likely scenario, the climate movement could collapse faster than the economy.  A depression-induced reduction in GHGs would be a great thing for the climate, but it would suck for the climate movement because people will see little reason to concern themselves with cutting carbon emissions.  In the midst of depression and falling carbon emissions, people and governments will be far more worried about economic recovery.  Under these conditions, the movement will only survive if it transfers its focus from climate change to building a stable, sustainable recovery free from addiction to vanishing reserves of fossil fuels.

If green community organizers and social movements initiate nonprofit forms of socially responsible banking, production, and exchange that help people survive systemic breakdowns, they will earn valuable public approval and respect.  If they help organize community farms, kitchens, health clinics and neighborhood security, they will gain further cooperation and support.  And if they can rally people to protect their savings and pensions and prevent foreclosures, evictions, layoffs, and workplace shutdowns, then popular resistance to catabolic capitalism will grow dramatically.  To nurture the transition toward a thriving, just, ecologically stable society, all of these struggles must be interwoven and infused with an inspirational vision of how much better life could be if we freed ourselves from this dysfunctional, profit-obsessed, petroleum-addicted system once and for all.

The lesson that Naomi Klein overlooks seems clear.  Climate chaos is just one DEVASTATING symptom of our dysfunctional society.  To survive catabolic capitalism and germinate an alternative, movement activists will have to anticipate and help people respond to multiple crises while organizing them to recognize and root out their source.  If the movement lacks the foresight to anticipate these cascading calamities and change its focus when needed, we will have squandered a vital lesson from Klein’s previous book, The Shock Doctrine.  Unless the Left is capable of envisioning and advancing a better alternative, the power elite will use each new crisis to ram through their agenda of “drilling and killing” while society is reeling and traumatized.  If the Left cannot build a movement strong enough and flexible enough to resist the ecological, economic, and military emergencies of declining industrial civilization and begin generating hopeful alternatives it will quickly lose momentum to those who profit from disaster.

Craig Collins Ph.D. is the author of “Toxic Loopholes” (Cambridge University Press), which examines America’s dysfunctional system of environmental protection. He teaches political science and environmental law at California State University East Bay and was a founding member of the Green Party of California. 

Notes.


[1] According to rankings in the 2006 CIA World Factbook, only 35 countries (out of 210 in the world) consume more oil per day than the Pentagon.  In 2003, as the military prepared for the Iraq invasion, the Army estimated it would consume more gasoline in only three weeks than the Allied Forces used during the entirety of World War II.  “Connecting Militarism and Climate Change” Peace & Justice Studies Association https://www.peacejusticestudies.org/blog/peace-justice-studies-association/2011/02/connecting-militarism-climate-change/0048

[2] While the military’s domestic fuel use is reported, international marine and aviation bunker fuels used on naval vessels and fighter aircraft outside national borders are not included in a country’s carbon emissions total. Lorincz, Tamara. “Demilitarization for Deep Decarbonization,” Popular Resistance (Sept. 2014) http://www.popularresistance.org/report-stop-ignoring-wars-militarization-impact-on-climate-change/

[3] There is no mention of the military sector’s emissions in the latest IPCC assessment report on climate change to the United Nations.

[4] At $640 billion, it accounts for about 37 percent of the world total.

[5] The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest polluter in the world, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest American chemical companies combined.

[6] The National Priorities Project’s 2008 report, titled The Military Cost of Securing Energy, found that nearly one-third of US military spending goes toward securing energy supplies around the world.

[7] On page 114, Klein devotes one sentence to the possibility of shaving 25 percent off the military budgets of the top 10 spenders as a source of revenue to confront climate calamities—not to finance renewables.  She fails to mention that the US alone spends as much as all those other nations combined.  So an equal 25 percent cut hardly seems fair.

[8] Klare, Michael. The Race for What’s Left. (Metropolitan Books, 2012).

[9] WRI International. Resisting the War on Mother Earth, Reclaiming Our Home. http://wri-irg.org/node/23219

[10] Biello, David. “Has Petroleum Production Peaked, Ending the Era of Easy Oil?” Scientific American. Jan. 25, 2012. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/has-peak-oil-already-happened/

[11] Whipple, Tom. Peak Oil & the Great Recession. Post Carbon Institute. http://www.postcarbon.org/publications/peak-oil-and-the-great-recession/

and Drum, Kevin. “Peak Oil and the Great Recession,” Mother Jones. Oct. 19, 2011. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/10/peak-oil-and-great-recession

[12] Rhodes, Chris. “Peak Oil Is Not A Myth,” Chemistry World. Feb. 20, 2014. http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2011/10/peak-oil-and-great-recession

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/2014/02/peak-oil-not-myth-fracking

Time to Unite the Peace and Climate Movements

Confronting 13 Years of Permanent War

by RON RIDENOUR

This month of October presents us with 13 years of permanent war for profit or, as the warmongers call it, the “war against terror”. This “operation” is killing and maiming millions of people especially in the oil rich Middle East. Simultaneously these Juggernaut nations “of the willing” are choking Mother Earth to death—polluting the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil that spawns our food, and eradicating millions of species.

Most people are clearly aware that the main cause of climate change, which is destroying the planet, is human motivated. And many are acting against this. But most environmental organizations and activists ignore the wars that kill people while they pollute the planet.

People in the east and south are usually the major victims of the wars started or backed by the west, and they want no part of this violence. Most people in the west, however, are not upset enough about this warring to act against it, although when asked most acknowledge that they wish for peace. A minority in the warring countries does speak out and a few act against this permanent state of war.

The Danish Peace Watch (Fredsvagten) is made of such moral fiber. For thirteen years since October 19, 2011, these few dedicated pacifists have stood before the castle of war (Christiansborg) decrying that War is Terror. They took up their peace torch on the day that the Danish government bowed before its self-appointed superior in Washington and sent a corvette warship to assist US and UK bombing of Afghanistan.

(George Bush had ordered the Taleban government to extradite Osmana bin Laden/Al Qaeda for being behind the 9/11 terror attacks. Taleban asked the US for evidence of guilt. The US refused, and bombed the government out of office. The US then set CIA agent Hamid Karzai in as president under US scrutiny.)

We need more peace watchers. And we need to unite the movements against war and against environmental death. They are naturally joined given that the main cause of these miseries is the same: PROFIT and POWER GREED; and the consequences are the same: DEATH to humans and any and all other species.

Listen to what Bolivian President Evo Morales says about the causes in his “10 Commandments to Save the Planet, Humankind and Life”:

“There is no worse aggression against Mother Earth and her children than war. War destroys life. Nothing and nobody can escape war. Those who fight suffer as much as those who remain without food just to feed the war. Land and biodiversity suffer. Thus, the environment will never be the same after a war. Wars are the greatest waste of life and natural resources.”

In President Morales’ writing of 2008 he cites a study made by Oil Change International, written by Nikki Reisch and Steve Kretzmann. This study focuses on the damage to Iraq in the first five years of war (2003-08).

“1) Projected total US spending on the Iraq war could cover all of the global investments in renewable power generation that are needed between now and 2030 in order to halt current warming trends.

2) The war is responsible for at least 141 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) since March 2003. To put this in perspective:

• CO2 released by the war to date equals the emissions from putting 25 million more cars on the road in the US this year.

• If the war was ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more CO2 each year than 139 of the world’s nations do annually.

Military emissions abroad are not captured in the national greenhouse gas inventories that all industrialized nations, including the United States, [should] report under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It’s a loophole big enough to drive a tank through.”

The CIA reported in its 2006 Factbook that only 35 countries consume more oil per day than does the Pentagon. The US war machine destroyed millions of lives in its war against Southeast Asia and ruined forever 14% of Vietnam’s land. Today the US has 6,000 military facilities inside the country, and over 800 bases in 150 countries with a total of 1.4 million military personnel, plus tens of thousands of highly paid civilian mercenaries.

President Morales knows what the main cause of the wars against humanity and the planet is. His   first commandment is, “To end with capitalism”. “We know that in order to cure Mother Earth it is necessary to be conscientious that this disease has a name: the global capitalist system.

“It is not sufficient, not fair, to say that the climate change is just the result of the activity of human beings on the planet. It is necessary to say that it is a system, a way of thinking and feeling, a way of producing wealth and poverty, a pattern of ‘development’ that is taking us to the edge of an abyss. It is the logic of the capitalist system that is destroying the planet…the endless logic of consumption, of using war as an instrument to obtain markets and appropriate markets and natural resources…there are no objects sacred or worthy of respect.”

Evo speaks simply, clearly. If we wish to stop the destruction of humankind, of all life and the planet we must put an end to the “culture of trash and death” and create the “culture of life and peace”—so that all can live well and not so that a few can live materially better than others.

The warmongers of the Wall Streets and their parliaments tell us there is not enough money for a decent social network system, for adequate health care and education. They tell us we must cut back. Yet there is plenty of money for their wars, and plenty of profits for the rich. Profits soar in the US, in Denmark and most western countries in this period of Permanent War.

Under Obama’s regime corporate profits after taxes has grown 171%, more than under any other presidency since World War 11. Profits are twice as high as their peak under the supra neo-liberal Reagan regime.

The numbers of billionaires increased to 2,325 this year, 155 more than in 2013. US has the most with 153 while little banana republic Denmark doubled its 2013 number to 11 this year.

The military-industrial complex garners extraordinary rates of profit.

According to a study by financial advisory firm Morgan Stanley, shares in the major US arms manufacturers have risen 27,699% over the past fifty years versus 6,777% for the broader market. In the past three years alone, arms corporation Lockheed Martin has returned 149% to their investors, Raytheon 124% and Grumman 114%.

About one-third of the more than 1000 organizations involved in the climate actions around the world last September 21 agreed to a declaration on the causes and solutions to our crises. Among the better known groups are: La Via Campesina, ATTAC (France), and Global Justice Alliance (US). The essence of this statement was inspired, in part, by the people’s world conference on climate held in April, 2010, in Bolivia. It was called by President Evo Morales following the COP 15 disaster in Copenhagen the previous December. 35,000 persons came from 100+ countries.

Here are extracts:

“Climate change is the result of an unjust economic system and to deal with the crisis, we must address the root causes and change the system. There will be no going back from the climate chaos if we do not fight for real solutions and do nothing to confront and challenge the inaction of our governments’ policy-making being hijacked by polluting corporations. It is crucial for us to unify and strengthen our economic, social and environmental struggles and focus our energies on changing the capitalist system.”

I emphasize three of their 10-point action program:

1. Stimulate the transition from industrialized, export-oriented agriculture for the global supermarket to community-based production to meet local food needs based on food sovereignty.

2. Develop new sectors of the economy designed to create new jobs that restore the balance and equilibrium of the Earth system such as climate jobs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and Earth restoration jobs.

3. Dismantle the war industry and military infrastructure in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by warfare, and divert war budgets to promote genuine peace.

I believe our most important task today is namely that which these environmental groups and President Morales indicate: we must unite our movements and fight with one strong fist.

Ron Ridenour can be reached through his website: www.ronridenour.com

Speaking Events

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