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An underwater pipeline leaked more than 58,000 gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, the New Orleans Times-Picayune is reporting. The spill, which occurred about 30 miles off the Louisiana coast, has now spread to cover 80 square miles -- up from just 28 square miles on Monday. The cause is still under investigation.
The spill "was among the largest in recent years in U.S. waters," Reuters reports.
The spill from Shell Oil's pipeline may not reach land, but its effects are rippling through Florida. Opponents of expanding drilling in the gulf spread the story as yet another reason to keep the eastern gulf clear of offshore rigs (and the pipelines that would bring the oil onshore). Read more.
Iraq in throes of environmental catastrophe, experts say
Now-frequent dust storms are just one sign of the man-made damage that has taken the country from Middle East breadbasket to dust bowl, they say.
By Liz Sly | LATimes
You wake up in the morning to find your nostrils clogged. Houses and trees have vanished beneath a choking brown smog. A hot wind blasts fine particles through doors and windows, coating everything in sight and imparting an eerie orange glow.
Dust storms are a routine experience in Iraq, but lately they've become a whole lot more common.
"Now it seems we have dust storms nearly every day," said Raed Hussein, 31, an antiques dealer who had to rush his 5-year-old son to a hospital during a recent squall because the boy couldn't breathe. "We suffer from lack of electricity, we suffer from explosions, and now we are suffering even more because of this terrible dust.
"It must be a punishment from God," he added, offering a view widely held among Iraqis seeking to explain their apocalyptic weather of late. "I think God is angry with the deeds of the Iraqi people."
The reality is probably scarier. Iraq is in the throes of what some officials are calling an environmental catastrophe, and the increased frequency of dust storms is only the most visible manifestation. Read more.
The answer to easing the energy crunch in one of the nation's most populous states could lie underwater.
Imagine if your utility company could harness the ocean's current to power your house, cool your office, even charge your car.
Researchers at Florida Atlantic University are in the early stages of turning that idea into reality in the powerful Gulf Stream off the state's eastern shore.
"If you can take an engine and put it on the back of a boat or propel a ship through water, why not take a look at the strength of the Gulf Stream and determine if that can actually turn a device and create energy?" asked Sue Skemp, executive director at Florida Atlantic University's Center for Ocean Energy Technology.
The demand for energy in Florida -- the fourth most populous state, with an estimated 19 million residents -- is quickly outpacing the capacity to create it, according to experts. Read more.
By Dave Lindorff
Agent Orange, the herbicide used as a weapon by US military forces in Vietnam for nearly a decade to defoliate vast stretches of inhabited forest and jungle in an effort to deprive the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces of both cover and a supportive populace, has long been known to have caused a large number of serious and debilitating diseases, many of them passed on to children of those exposed. But now it also appears to cause a peculiar blindness among American journalists.
Grassroots Coalition Special Bulletin | Press Release
Several days ago Paul Krugman in the NY Times pointed to a recent report by MIT scientists which stated that our planet is changing faster than even the pessimists expected: ice caps are shrinking, arid zones spreading, at a terrifying rate. And according to a number of recent studies, catastrophe – a rise in temperature so large as to be almost unbelievable – can no longer be considered a mere possibility. It is instead the most likely outcome if we continue on our present course,
Researchers at MIT who were previously predicting a temperature rise of a little more than 4 degrees by the end of this century, are now predicting a rise of more than 9 degrees by the end of this century we would see a rise of 9 degrees, because greenhouse gas emissions are rising faster than expected, and some mitigating factors, like absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans, are turning out to be weaker than hoped.
Antonia Juhasz wrote AfterDowningStreet.org to announce a new research and tracking program at Global Exchange. Read her Op Ed below. Antonia wrote:
I'm thrilled to announce the launch of the new Chevron Program at Global Exchange with my Op Ed (below) in today's San Francisco Chronicle. I'll be directing this new program which is just getting off the ground this week. In the coming weeks you'll find our website updated with new information on the Program. Many of you are already familiar with The True Cost of Chevron: An Alternative Annual Report which I was the lead author and editor of and which was released by Global Exchange and several other organizations in May 2009.
Global Exchange has launched the new Chevron Program in recognition of both the growing power and influence of Chevron as it rises from the sixth to the fifth largest corporation in the world and the budding new movement of Chevron-affected communities combining their efforts in resistance to Chevron's harms.
I am thrilled to be joining the amazing team at Global Exchange as well as continuing my current affiliations with the Institute for Policy Studies, Oil Change International, and Foreign Policy in Focus.
This week, Fortune magazine released its list of the 500 largest corporations in the world. With a nearly 25 percent increase in its revenues from 2007, Chevron Corp. moved from the sixth to the fifth largest corporation in the world. Only 36 countries on the planet had GDPs larger than Chevron's $263 billion in 2008 revenues.
By revenue, Chevron is the largest corporation in California, the second-largest U.S. oil corporation and the third-largest corporation in the nation. Chevron's nearly $24 billion in profits for 2008 were its largest on record and the fourth-highest profits of any corporation in the world. Chevron's profits have increased every year since 2002, increasing by an astounding 2,100 percent.
Those who have not benefited are the Richmond community, the site of Chevron's oldest refinery, and the state of California.
In November, Richmond voters passed Measure T. At the current price of oil, it would provide the city with an additional $16 million annually from Chevron (adding 11 percent to the city's tax revenues). Chevron sued, challenging the new tax.
Chevron has also repeatedly blocked state initiatives to impose a severance tax on oil extracted in the state. California is the only major oil producing state in the nation without such a tax. It is estimated that imposition of a severance tax could bring in over $1 billion a year to the California state budget. Read more.
G-8 Failure Reflects U.S. Failure on Climate Change
By Dr. Jim Hansen [director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, but he writes on this policy-related topic as a private citizen.] | Shalom Center
It didn't take long for the counterfeit climate bill known as Waxman-Markey to push back against President Obama's agenda. As the president was arriving in Italy for his first Group of Eight summit, the New York Times was reporting that efforts to close ranks on global warming between the G-8 and the emerging economies had already tanked:
The world's major industrial nations and emerging powers failed to agree Wednesday (July 9, 2009) on significant cuts in heat-trapping gases by 2050, unraveling an effort to build a global consensus to fight climate change, according to people following the talks.
Of course, emission targets in 2050 have limited practical meaning -- present leaders will be dead or doddering by then -- so these differences may be patched up. The important point is that other nations are unlikely to make real concessions on emissions if the United States is not addressing the climate matter seriously.
With a workable climate bill in his pocket, President Obama might have been able to begin building that global consensus in Italy. Instead, it looks as if the delegates from other nations may have done what 219 U.S. House members who voted up Waxman-Markey last month did not: critically read the 1,400-page American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 and deduce that it's no more fit to rescue our climate than a V-2 rocket was to land a man on the moon.
I share that conclusion, and have explained why to members of Congress before and will again at a Capitol Hill briefing on July 13. Science has exposed the climate threat and revealed this inconvenient truth: If we burn even half of Earth's remaining fossil fuels we will destroy the planet as humanity knows it. The added emissions of heat-trapping carbon dioxide will set our Earth irreversibly onto a course toward an ice-free state, a course that will initiate a chain reaction of irreversible and catastrophic climate changes.
The concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere now stands at 387 parts per million, the highest level in 600,000 years and more than 100 ppm higher than the amount at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Burning just the oil and gas sitting in known fields will drive atmospheric CO2 well over 400 ppm and ignite a devil's cauldron of melted icecaps, bubbling permafrost, and combustible forests from which there will be no turning back. But if we cut off the largest source of carbon dioxide, coal, we have a chance to bring CO2 back to 350 ppm and still lower through agricultural and forestry practices that increase carbon storage in trees and soil.
The essential step, then, is to phase out coal emissions over the next two decades. And to declare off limits artificial high-carbon fuels such as tar sands and shale while moving to phase out dependence on conventional petroleum as well. Read more.
Obama's Cap and Trade Carbon Emissions Bill - A Stealth Scheme to License Pollution and Fraud
By Stephen Lendman
On May 15, HR 2454: American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA) was introduced in the House purportedly "To create clean energy jobs, achieve energy independence, reduce global warming pollution and transition to a clean energy economy."
In fact, it's to let corporate polluters reap huge windfall profits by charging consumers more for energy and fuel as well as create a new bubble through carbon trading derivatives speculation. It does nothing to address environmental issues, yet on June 26 the House narrowly passed (229 - 212) and sent it to the Senate to be debated and voted on. More on that below.
On March 31, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey released a "discussion draft" of the proposed legislation and falsely claimed:
Unveiling a blueprint for the VA-5th to lead the nation in clean energy economy: http://tinyurl.com/ldmtvd
By Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Mountaintop removal coal mining is the worst environmental tragedy in American history. When will the Obama administration finally stop this Appalachian apocalypse?
... Obama has the authority to end mountaintop removal, without further action from Congress and without formal rulemaking. He just needs to make the coal barons obey the law.
Kucinich: "Passing a weak bill today gives us weak environmental policy tomorrow" | Press Release
WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 26, 2009) -- Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today issued the following statement after voting against H.R. 2454, The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009:
“I oppose H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. The reason is simple. It won’t address the problem. In fact, it might make the problem worse.
“It sets targets that are too weak, especially in the short term, and sets about meeting those targets through Enron-style accounting methods. It gives new life to one of the primary sources of the problem that should be on its way out– coal – by giving it record subsidies. And it is rounded out with massive corporate giveaways at taxpayer expense. There is $60 billion for a single technology which may or may not work, but which enables coal power plants to keep warming the planet at least another 20 years.
“Worse, the bill locks us into a framework that will fail. Science tells us that immediately is not soon enough to begin repairing the planet. Waiting another decade or more will virtually guarantee catastrophic levels of warming. But the bill does not require any greenhouse gas reductions beyond current levels until 2030.
“Today’s bill is a fragile compromise, which leads some to claim that we cannot do better. I respectfully submit that not only can we do better; we have no choice but to do better. Indeed, if we pass a bill that only creates the illusion of addressing the problem, we walk away with only an illusion. The price for that illusion is the opportunity to take substantive action.
Irony of Ironies: Biggest Iraq War Oil Profiteer ExxonMobil Starts Nation's First Electric Plug In Car Share Scheme in Baltimore
by Diane Wittner | June 25, 2009 | Chesapeake Citizens
I have not owned a 'personal' car for eight months, and counting.
I am a member of Zipcar, a nation wide car sharing business, and their fleet has some hybrids for rent.
But check out their new competition: the nation's first electric plug-in car share scheme opened two days ago in Baltimore.
Here's their press release.
How ironic that biggest and most obscene Iraq oil war profiteer ExxonMobil is behind this initiative!
How to respond if one is tempted to join this new company?
Here are a few ideas:
Kucinich: Will Increased CO2 Emissions be our Gift to the Next Generation? | Press Release
Washington D.C. (June 24, 2009) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement against The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 on the House floor:
“Science tells us that we must begin to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in the next five to ten years. But according to an analysis by offsets expert and Stanford law professor Michael Wara, it is possible that we could see no net reduction of CO2 emissions until the year 2040 because of offsets and unlimited banking of allowances in the new climate change bill.
“The bill allows 2 billion tons of carbon offsets a year, roughly equivalent to 30% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Supporters of the bill point out that coal use will continue to increase until at least 2020 because electric utilities will continue to use dirty coal, the prime source of pollution.
Creating Clean Energy Jobs: Helping People Helping the Environment
Tuesday, June 23, 2009, 11:00 a.m.
Congressman Tom Perriello
Homeowner Ingrid Feggans
Homeowner Chad Thorne
Charlottesville Mayor Dave Norris
Albemarle County Supervisor Ann Mallek
Worker Michael Stewart
Chair of White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley
Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality Van Jones (hovering but not speaking)
Backstory: Admirable, if insufficient, as this event was, there is an unpleasant context. The week before this event, Congressman Tom Perriello voted for $100 billion for wars (which he was happy to do) combined with $100 billion in loans to eastern European banksters through the International Monetary Fund (which he will likely be hammered for in television ads a year from now, and which he claims to have opposed even while voting for). The White House and Democratic Party leaders made a lot of promises and threats to pass the bill in a very close vote. The day before this event House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer came to Charlottesville for an event with Perriello. Now Van Jones and Nancy Sutley came. Who will be next? My money is on a south district event with a military big whig. You read it here first.
OPEN FOR VIDEOS
Whether or not the rumors of fast-tracking the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACESA), HR 2454, sponsored by Reps. Waxman and Markey, prove to be true, one thing is certain--the bill as written is very flawed.
Today, PDA sent a letter to PDA board members Reps. Raul Grijalva and Lynn Woolsey, co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Barbara Lee, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, outlining our objections to the legislation. Read it here.
Send an email to your representative asking him or her to vote NO on the ACESA if the objections are not addressed in the bill.
Just as single-payer was left off the table, other effective mechanisms for addressing carbon emissions—the revenue-neutral carbon tax and cap-and-dividend--have not yet been debated by Congress.
Take Action at Progressive Democrats of America.
Letter circulated by Reps. Keith Ellison and Chellie Pingree:
June ___, 2009
Thank you for your continued commitment to strengthen our economy and
protect our environment. As you know, H.R. 2454, The American Clean
Energy and Security Act, offers our country the most important
opportunity in generations to jumpstart our economy, create millions
of new, well-paying jobs and set the stage for America to compete and
win in a 21st century economy while reducing global warming
pollution. A strong clean energy jobs bill will benefit small
businesses and set us on the pathway back to economic prosperity.
H.R. 2454 in its current form represents a great effort put forward by
the Committee on Energy and Commerce. We commend the work that has
already been done and look forward to working with you to strengthen
Hi-Res Photos, B-roll and Video will be available, www.mountainaction.org.
Activists Risk Arrest to Stop Mountaintop Removal
Scale 20-storey tall machinery to call attention to nation’s worst form of coal mining; This is the first time a dragline has been scaled on a mountaintop removal site
Rising sea levels, sweltering temperatures, deeper droughts, and heavier downpours _ global warming's serious effects are already here and getting worse, the Obama administration warned on Tuesday in the grimmest, most urgent language on climate change ever to come out of any White House.
But amid the warnings, scientists and government officials seemed to go out of their way to soften the message. It is still not too late to prevent some of the worst consequences, they said, by acting aggressively to reduce world emissions of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels.
The new report differs from a similar draft issued with little fanfare or context by George W. Bush's administration last year. It is paradoxically more dire about what's happening and more optimistic about what can be done.
The Obama administration is backing a bill in Congress that would limit heat-trapping pollution from power plants, refineries and factories. A key player on a climate bill in the Senate, California Democrat Barbara Boxer, said the report adds "urgency to the growing momentum in Congress" for passing a law. Read more.
Last week, the Bureau of the IADL, meeting in Hanoi, presented President Nguyen Minh Triet of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam with the final decision of the Tribunal. The judges found the U.S. government and the chemical companies guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ecocide during the illegal U.S. war of aggression in Vietnam. We recommended that the Agent Orange Commission be established in Vietnam to assess the damages suffered by the people and destruction of the environment, and that the U.S. government and the chemical companies provide compensation for the damage and destruction.
Settlement Reached in Human Rights Cases Against Royal Dutch/Shell | Press Release
On Eve of Trial, Settlement Agreements Provide $15.5 Million for Compensation to Nigerian Human Rights Activists and to Establish Trust Fund
New York, June 8, 2009 — Today, the parties in Wiwa v. Shell agreed to settle human rights claims charging the Royal Dutch/Shell company, its Nigerian subsidiary, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC or Shell Nigeria), and the former head of its Nigerian operation, Brian Anderson, with complicity in the torture, killing, and other abuses of Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and other non-violent Nigerian activists in the mid-1990s in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta.
The settlement, whose terms are public, provides a total of $15.5 million. These funds will compensate the 10 plaintiffs, who include family members of the deceased victims; establish a Trust intended to benefit the Ogoni people; and cover a portion of plaintiffs’ legal fees and costs. The settlement is only on behalf of the individual plaintiffs for their individual claims. It does not resolve outstanding issues between Shell and the Ogoni people, and the plaintiffs did not negotiate on behalf of the Ogoni people.
We know what The Nature Conservancy thinks about forest offsets. It loves them. It loves them so much that it has got into bed with the biggest coal-burner in the US, American Electric Power. Meanwhile, TNC has developed a “global mechanism proposal”, which includes a goal of 3 billion tons of “emissions reductions from REDD” by 2020. These would be “fully fungible with emissions reductions from other sectors”. This is precisely what carbon traders, the timber industry and polluting companies like AEP want: forest carbon offsets.
At a side event at the UN Climate negotiations in Bonn earlier this week, TNC’s Greg Fishbein (whose job title, incidentally, is “Managing Director of Forest Carbon”) said, “We recognise that a goal like this needs to be combined with strict Annex I targets to ensure that these emissions reductions are in fact in addition to a contribution to overall emissions reductions and not just replacing emissions reductions that are taking place some place else.”
But when TNC talks about “strict Annex I targets”, what do they actually mean?
During the questions after the presentations, TNC inadvertently let slip that meaningful emissions reduction targets are not so important to them after all. Read more.
Last week, an organisation called Avoided Deforestation Partners launched what they blandly describe as “an agreement on policies aimed at protecting the world’s tropical forests”. Under this agreement, “companies would be eligible to receive credit for reducing climate pollution by financing conservation of tropical forests”. It is a loophole allowing industry to write a cheque and continue to pollute. This is another nightmare vision of REDD, similar to that recently proposed by the Australian government. Another similarity with Australia is the support received from what is at first glance a surprising source: big international conservation NGOs.
REDD-Monitor received the following anonymous contribution about the agreement. We reproduce it in full in the hope of generating further discussion about this liaison between conservation NGOs and polluting industry.
The following organisations signed the agreement: American Electric Power, Conservation International, Duke Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, El Paso Corporation, National Wildlife Federation, Marriott International, Mercy Corps, Natural Resources Defense Council, PG&E Corporation, Sierra Club, Starbucks Coffee Company, The Nature Conservancy, Union of Concerned Scientists, The Walt Disney Company, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Woods Hole Research Center. Read more.
Obama Administration Targets Environmental and Animal Rights Activists as Eco-Terrorists
By Stephen Lendman
What began under George Bush continues under Barack Obama - targeting dedicated activists with "one of today's most serious domestic terrorism threats," according former FBI Deputy Assistant Director of Counterterrorism John Lewis before a Senate panel in May 2005. Called "eco-terrorism," it grew out of the 2001 USA Patriot Act that created the federal crime of "domestic terrorism" and applied it to US citizens as well as aliens.
In his February 2002 testimony before the House Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health, the FBI's Domestic Terrorism Section Chief, Counterterrorism Division, James Jarboe defined eco-terrorism as:
WE DON'T NEED THE GENERAL MOTORS CORPORATION
by Mike Ferner
Times are anxious indeed, but simultaneously we are face-to-face with an extremely rare chance to replace our transportation system with something we can literally live with.
To take advantage of this uncommon opportunity we will have to do something far more profound, yet less costly, than a government bailout or an act of Congress. We will have to, as Paul Newman said in Cool Hand Luke, "get our minds right" on one simple fact: what we need is reliable, sustainable transportation. That does not mean we need General Motors Corporation or even cars. Contemplate the freedom implied in that statement for just a moment: we do not need General Motors Corporation.
By Dave Lindorff
Just imagine for a moment that you are a retired contractor, struggling to get by on your pathetically shriveled 401(k). when your ne-er-do-well child suddenly comes to you saying he’s got this idea to start buying derelict homes and rehabbing them for resale. He asks you to stake him with a $100,000 loan (about half of what you’ve got left in your retirement fund), promising to repay you when he sells his first couple of houses. You know the kid’s flat busted and has been laid off from his job as a dishwasher, so you want to help, but you’ve also seen his carpentry skills: The doghouse he build in high school fell apart on a windy day, and his own house has a leaking roof, needs repainting, and all the plumbing leaks. You’ve also seen his business skills: He plays the Lotto excessively, hasn’t saved a penny, and buys most of his supplies at the local 7-Eleven.
Would you front this kid half your money?
Oil Economy Driving Growth of Controversial Tar Sands
By Chris Arsenault | IPS
A report from one of the world’s top energy consultancies says oil production in Canada’s tar sands could see a five-fold increase by 2035.
"The oil sands have moved from the fringe to the center of energy supply," notes the report "Growth in the Canadian Oil Sands: Finding a New Balance" released by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) on May 18.
Environmentalists and some aboriginal groups want the oil sands to stay on the fringes because extracting heavy oil produces more greenhouse gas emissions than convention crude.
Meanwhile, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) issued a report titled "The Canadian Oil Sands: Energy Security vs Climate Change" on May 22 arguing that both the negative environmental impacts and benefits to U.S. energy security from Canada’s tar sands are overstated.
"Smart regulation can place a fair and reasonable price on the oil sands’ greenhouse gas emissions, providing the right incentive to reduce them," said Michael Levi, an author of the CFR report.
Levi told IPS that lifecycle green house gas emmissions from the tar sands are 17 percent worse than conventional U.S. oil imports. Environmentalists dispute this claim, stating oil production from the tar sands is at least three times worse than conventional oil.
"The development of Canadian oil sands encapsulates the complexities that the world faces on energy, environment and security," said IHS CERA chairman Daniel Yergin in a statement. Read more.