Is America an Energy Superpower or Energy Colony?

This week the Hill hosted several hearings organized to push for “energy exports” as a geopolitical weapon. We see this as the oil industry using the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea to get what they really want—more access to America’s resources and the export terminals and permission to move them overseas where they are more valuable. 

At a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, while former and current energy lobbyists “debated” liquified natural gas (LNG) exports to Europe and the Ukraine, newly minted Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-LA) raved, “America can and should be an energy superpower!”

Energy Superpower? The reality is, easing LNG exports would be a Faustian bargain: we’d be putting power and money in the hands of energy magnates whose goal to ship North American natural resources abroad. 

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Peabody Coal & Burson-Marsteller Push "Clean Coal" Electricity to Save the Poor

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Kate Sheppard at Huffington Post just posted a piece on our investigation of Peabody Coal's new PR campaign. Here are some excerpts and additions from what we have learned so far about the Peabody campaign. 
WASHINGTON -– Peabody Energy Corp., the world's largest private-sector coal company, launched a public relations and advertising campaign last month extolling the virtues of coal energy for poor people.

A Peabody press release announcing the campaign, called Advanced Energy for Life, argues that lack of access to energy is "the world's number one human and environmental crisis."

Peabody's proposal to solve this crisis? Asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to stop setting pollution limits on coal-fired power plants

Wait a minute, I thought this was about solving poverty, it's really about the EPA?  How sad.

The Huffington Post piece continues:

Burson-Marsteller, the world's largest PR firm, and its subsidiary, Proof Integrated Communications, are working behind the scenes on Peabody's PR effort. Burson-Marsteller spokesman Paul Cordasco confirmed to The Huffington Post that the company is working on behalf of Peabody. Peabody spokeswoman Beth Sutton said "Burson-Marsteller and several other firms are providing support for the campaign."

Sutton said the campaign "will be sustained long term" and "is aimed at changing the global conversation to focus on energy poverty."

Hmm...wonder who the "several other firms" are?  It looked to us like they had put a lot of cash into the web assets anyway, so we assumed this was a big contract with lots of advertising bells and whistles to come.

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Exxon Mobil - Rosneft - Russia Strategic Partnership [VIDEO]

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Does Exxon have a "strategic partnership" with the United States?

Not according to Exxon.  They have no political allegiance to their home country.

But they do have one with Russia, at least according to Rosneft, a company 70 percent owned by the Russian government.

The promotional video above is on the Rosneft corporate website.  It touts the relationship in a very different way from Exxon's announcements about the deal, bragging about the drilling technology and project management expertise they gained in the deal. Exxon got the reserves they crave

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There was a hearing today on energy exports in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee where Senators pushed for rapid approval of U.S. gas exports to Europe and suggested sharing fracking and drilling technology with European friends as a hedge against Russian gas.  

Many U.S. companies are already doing that in Poland and elsewhere via the 2010 Hillary Clinton State Department Global Shale Gas Initiative, working with fracking drilling companies and the oil majors.  Russia was not one of the countries the State Department was planning on sharing technology with.  Exxon decided to do that for them. And Rosneft and Russia are overjoyed.

ExxonMobil is the top U.S. natural gas producer according to the Natural Gas Supply Association data so they have a lot to gain from loosening exports U.S. gas. 

Below are some more screen captures from the Rosneft promo video that show what is at stake in the Russian Arctic and the Russian viewpoint on the "strategic partnership, including Rosneft's stake in oil and gas fields in the United States.

The voice over narrative is bold, unapologetic, unguarded, lacking the PR greenwash we are used to in the United States.  Exxon and others would probably rather speak like this than pretend to care about jobs and people. (see Chevron "We Care" campaign for example).

Give it a look and let us know what you think.

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Does Exxon Love Putin More Than U.S.?

Screen_Shot_2014-03-17_at_3.38.00_PM.pngIn the context of the growing conflict in the Ukraine and Crimea, this investigation and briefing looks at the long relationship between ExxonMobil and Russia. We question ExxonMobil's allegiance to the United States amid the growing calls from the right and from the American Petroleum Institute for increasing U.S. natural gas exports as a means to pressure Russia.

We dig into the deals cut over the past few years between Exxon and Rosneft, a company 70 percent owned by the Russian government, and the U.S. assets and technology that Russia got out of the deal.

We look at President Reagan's opposition to the first big Russian gas pipelines to Europe in 1982 and how pressure from Exxon and other multinational oil companies backed Reagan down.  Turns out Reagan was right about the dangerous dependency these pipelines would create.

 The Getty Images caption to the photo above right reads:

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speaks with ExxonMobil President and Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson during the signing of a Rosneft-ExxonMobil strategic partnership agreement in Sochi on August 30, 2011. Russia's oil champion Rosneft and US ExxonMobil clinched a global deal worth up to half-a-trillion dollars that will see the US supermajor take BP's place in pioneering Arctic exploration work. AFP PHOTO / RIA NOVOSTI / POOL / ALEXEY DRUZHININ  

 

The title of this blog could also be "Is Exxon an American Company?" and the answer to that question comes from Lee Raymond himself.  The answer is 'no'.

Steve Coll’s book about ExxonMobil, Private Empire recounts this telling moment:

"Once, at an industry meeting in Washington, an executive present asked Raymond whether Exxon might build more refineries inside the United States, to help protect the country against potential gasoline shortages.

"Why would I want to do that?" Raymond asked, as the executive recalled it.

"Because the United States needs it...for security," the executive replied.

"I'm not a U.S. company and I don’t make decisions based on what’s good for the U.S.”, Raymond said."

Read Coll's book if you haven't.  The title is more true than ever as seen through recent events in the Ukraine. 

I have been tracking Exxon for probably longer than I want to admit within the climate change struggle, including launching the Greenpeace project ExxonSecrets exactly ten years ago, which tracked tens of millions of dollars of ExxonMobil funding to climate denial front groups in the United States and elsewhere. 

Coverage of the crisis in the Ukraine quickly honed in on on the central geopolitical issue - natural gas and growing recognition (or re-discovery) of the power Russia exerts over Europe via natural gas exports. Soon after the riots in Kiev and Russia's incursion into Crimea, we began to hear a full-throated call from Big Oil and their mostly Republican sycophants in Washington DC, for the export of U.S. natural gas to Europe...as if the U.S. could suddenly neutralize Putin’s power if not for the Obama Administration obstruction inaction on LNG terminals, gas and crude oil exports, and the Keystone XL pipeline.

What's the saying about crisis equals opportunity? The oil industry plays this game well.

 

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2014 CPAC Climate Panel Stacked with Serial Deniers

Today at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference being held just outside Washington DC, there was a panel on climate whose speakers collectively have been Dealing in Doubt for probably 75 years.  The panel included Joe Bast of Heartland Institute, Steve Milloy of Murray Coal, Marc Morano of CFACT, Marlo Lewis of CEI and George Landrith of Frontiers of Freedom

Brendan Demelle of DeSmogBlog writes today about this cast of deniers, focusing on Steve Milloy, long time climate denier and tobacco and pesticide defender.  This panel was a coming out party for Milloy's recent (~October 2013) employment by Murray Coal.  Milloy is listed as "Director of External Policy & Strategy" for Murray Energy Corp.   We have never seen this before.

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What makes this CPAC panel really interesting is all the connections to an infamous leaked 1998 American Petroleum Institute memo.

From DeSmogBlog:

"Milloy, an infamous tobacco- and chemical industry-funded PR flack, was an author of the 1998 American Petroleum Institute “communications plan” to attack science and undermine international action on climate change. Written in conjunction with many right wing think tanks and fossil fuel companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Southern Company, the industry’s goal was to launch "a national media relations program to inform the media about uncertainties in climate science."

The 1998 API memo noted the “current reality” the industry faced:

"Unless 'climate change' becomes a non-issue, meaning that the Kyoto proposal is defeated and there are no further initiatives to thwart the threat of climate change, there may be no moment when we can declare victory for our efforts."

Three of the groups represented on the 2014 CPAC global warming panel were listed on the 1998 plan as possible channels to deploy the industry money to attack climate science, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), Competitive Enterprise Institute and Frontiers of Freedom."

 

 

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ALEC Hates the Climate

ALEC's Long War on Climate Science and Climate Policy

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has long attacked climate science and climate policy.  The most recent skirmish surrounds greenhouse gas rules being drafted by the EPA.  ALEC’s 2011 submission to the EPA docket on proposed greenhouse gas regulations from new sources contains the following gems:

“Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring, non-toxic and beneficial gas, and it poses no direct threat to public health. In order to justify regulation, the EPA is relying on an uncertain assumption that increased carbon dioxide emissions by humans are causing an unprecedented global temperature increase and an uncertain assumption that the temperature increase will result in worldwide catastrophe in 50 to 100 years.”
“The (ALEC) Resolution in Opposition to Regulation Greenhouse Gases under the Clean Air Act states that regardless of one’s views on global climate change science, the efforts of one developed nation would not have a meaningful effect on global temperatures” 

ALEC Named in Leaked 1998 American Petroleum Institute Climate Science Denial Plan

In 1998, ALEC is named in a leaked campaign planning document, American Petroleum Institute's Global Climate Science Communications Plan.  This document was leaked to climate advocates at National Environmental Trust who distributed it to media.

ALEC is named as a "Potential fund allocator" along with CFACT, CEI, Frontiers of Freedom and the Marshall Institute. (interestingly Exxon suddenly dropped funding to all of these front groups when their climate denial scheme was exposed in the mid 1990s, but continiued funding ALEC.)

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Screen_Shot_2014-10-08_at_3.05.13_PM.pngThe basic goal of the API Plan was to reframe climate science as "uncertain" just after the Kyoto Protocol was born in 1997 and climate policy had a boost in momentum.  

The plan was devised by representatives from a spate of corporations (Exxon, Southern Company and Chevron) and a number of right leaning or "free market" think tank staff.  

There were clear goals: "Victory Will Be Achieved When" Average citizens 'understand' (recognize) uncertainties in climate science; recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the 'conventional wisdom".

Even though ALEC was identified as part of the plan, but we don't know exactly how much money flowed to ALEC for the effort, which we assume continued, despite being revealed on the front page of the New York Times.  

Exxon Funding ALEC on Climate

Exxon funding to ALEC increased to over ensuing years, reaching a peak of over $368,000 in 2003.  There are multiple grants from Exxon to ALEC specifically for work on climate change, including some that were mislabeled on the 2005 public corporate giving report but labeled climate change on the ExxonMobil Foundation 990 submitted to the IRS.

In total, ExxonMobil Foundation wrote checks to ALEC for over $375K in climate change specific funding between 2003 and 2005.  There may well have been other grants earmarked for climate change related work that were not labeled as such:

2003 - $140,000 from ExxonMobil Foundation for "Global Climate Change"
Source: ExxonMobil 2003 Worldwide Giving Report

2004 - $62,000 from ExxonMobil Foundation for "Energy and Climate Change"
Source: ExxonMobil 2004 Worldwide Giving Report

2004 - $75,000 from ExxonMobil Foundation for "Climate Change"
Source: ExxonMobil 2004 Worldwide Giving Report

2005 - $151,500 ExxonMobil Foundation (discrepancy in reporting). The 2005 ExxonMobil Worldwide Giving Report lists $151,000 broken down for "Energy Sustainability Project" ($80,000) and "General Operating Support" ($71,500).

But in the 2005 ExxonMobil Foundation IRS 990 the grants are listed as "Energy Sustainability Project (Climate Change)"($80,000); "Climate Change Environmental Outreach" ($21,500) 

In total Exxon has paid ALEC well over $1.6 Million dollars since 1998.  Year by year Exxon Funding to ALEC from ExxonSecrets database and Exxon documents available on DocumentCloud

ALEC's Climate Attacks Started Long Ago

ALEC began to attack climate policy in earnest in the late 1990s, just after the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the first attempt at a compulsory global climate agreement.  In the late years of the Clinton administration and early Bush regime, ALEC and other right wing groups attacked anything that even faintly smelled like climate policy at the state level.

By 1999, ALEC and allies at the state level managed to pass resolutions against climate regulations in 16 states  - Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming, according to University of Michigan researcher, Barry Rabe’s 2002 report, Greenhouse & Statehouse:

“During 1998 and 1999, 16 states passed legislation or resolutions that were highly critical of the Protocol and opposed ratification by the U.S. Senate. Many of these were purely advisory and employed similar language from state to state. Some states, however, chose to go further and block any unilateral steps to reduce greenhouse gases. Michigan, for example, amended its Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act in 1999 to prevent state agencies from proposing or promulgating any rule to reduce greenhouse gases unless it had been requested by the legislature. No such requests have been forthcoming and the state has also shied away from pursuing federal grants for preliminary study of the issue. In West Virginia, legislation passed in 1998, prevented state agencies from entering into any agreements with any federal agencies intended to reduce the states GHG emissions.”

 

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ALEC vs. the Sons of Kyoto

Sandy Liddy Bourne, former Director of the ALEC Energy, Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Task Force, authored a 2004 report called Sons of Kyoto. She drew a map of the country and targeted for destruction every state level greenhouse gas initiative, including carbon sequestration (wait, don't polluters like this), emissions reductions efforts and inventories.  

The report claimed, almost like Chicken Little, that the states were implementing a radical treaty that had not been ratified by Congress and warned that "greenhouse gas regulation has proliferated in the states at an alarming rate. In the 2001-2002 general sessions, 66 bills were introduced in 24 states. During the 2003 general session, over 90 bills were introduced in 27 states."

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At the time, ALEC, the Heartland Institute, and other right wing free market think tanks were upset because states were taking action on their own, leaving Bush, Cheney, and Washington behind.  ALEC believed, as they do today, that killing state momentum on things like renewable energy policy and greenhouse gas standards would have a dampening effect on momentum on federal policy.  

Indeed states were taking the lead during the doldrums of the Bush Administration, and ALEC doesn't like State policy besting Federal policy, unless its on their ideological game plan. 

Why is this history relevant? 

Because they are at it again, with new dedication, because the hour is close at hand. The EPA is taking action, and ALEC and its corporate puppeteers are going into high gear.  As Natural Resources Defense Council points out, ALEC, along with allies at the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and others are now engaged in a "guerrilla warfare" strategy against the EPA as called for by a Peabody Coal lawyer during the December 2013 ALEC meeting. ALEC designed anti-EPA resolutions are popping up like weeds across the country, aimed at interfering with state level implementation of the greenhouse gas rules for coal fired power plants that the EPA is moving forward.

NRDC's Aliya Haq writes: "Most state legislatures are only a few weeks into their 2014 sessions, yet ALEC legislators have already introduced a dozen anti-EPA bills and resolutions across the country, including in ArizonaFloridaGeorgiaIllinoisOhioKansasMissouri,TennesseeVirginia and West Virginia."

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ALEC and Exxon: A Long Legacy of Climate Backlash

In this piece we examine the long history of attacks on climate and renewable energy policy at the state level and specifically examine Exxon’s ongoing financial ties to ALEC and the return on that investment.  

ExxonMobil Foundation reports annually to the IRS and publishes a Worldwide Giving Report for shareholders and other observers, as a means to show their philanthropy. With these reports, we have a unique window into corporate funding of ALEC, with line item descriptions for the grants sent to ALEC year by year. 

We don’t have that for any other corporate donor to ALEC, as far as we know.

We found that one quarter of the traceable grants that Exxon has made to ALEC over the years were labeled with climate deliverables.

We have heard a lot of news recently about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), via The Guardian and other investigative reporting. We know much more than we did 10 or 15 years ago when they happily operated in the shadows, pushing legislation at the state level to either promote or attack federal policy.  We do know of corporate involvement on various ALEC Task Forces from recent research by the Center for Media and Democracy and other allies using ALECExposed - (the ALEC war chest of 'model bills' published two years ago, and the Guardian for publishing recent ALEC documents revealing their corporate fundraising strategy and their attacks on renewable energy and greenhouse gas regulations.)

ExxonMobil has supported ALEC for decades, and the company continues to be a sponsor of ALEC.  Exxon might well argue that it agrees with the broad principles of ALEC’s agenda or more precisely, as stated in its 2002 Worldwide Giving Report Public Information and Policy Research docket, ExxonMobil supports organizations that are

"dedicated to research on free market solutions to public policy problems" and "organizations dedicated to strengthening the foundations of freedom and to the principles of free enterprise".

In fact, Exxon records collated by the ExxonSecrets project at Greenpeace reveal the corporation’s relationship with ALEC has at times been heavily focused on climate change policy. 

ExxonSecrets analysis revealed that Exxon sought to conceal its climate work with ALEC in 2005, labeling the grants “Energy Sustainability Project” and “General Operating Support” in its corporate documents published for shareholders, while in documents submitted to the IRS, the similar grants are described as “Energy Sustainability Project (Climate Change) and “Climate Change Environmental Outreach."

ExxonMobil 2005 Worldwide Giving Report

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ExxonMobil Foundation 2005 IRS Form 990

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ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and Peabody Coal are some of a very few stalwart corporate supporters of ALEC, an organization with a broad agenda that includes promotion of anti-regulatory, conservative, corporate-friendly policies on immigration, voter's rights, labor law, privatizing schools and prisons and climate change.  

What do energy corporations get for their money when they sponsor ALEC (companies like ExxonMobil, American Electric Power, Duke Energy, Peabody Coal and Cloud Peak coal)?    Is Exxon’s funding still tied to ALEC’s work on climate and energy, such as recent efforts to block EPA greenhouse gas rules at the state level and overturn renewable energy mandates? ExxonMobil doesn't care about privatizing schools and prisons or immigration policy, do they?

 

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Secretary of State John Kerry Calls Out Climate Deniers

Secretary of State John Kerry gave a pretty strong speech (full text below) in Indonesia last week, a call to arms on climate change.  His remarks have drawn fire from Pat Robertson and Newt Gingrich, among others.  Gingrich even called on Kerry to resign after postting angry tweets.  Expectations for Secretary Kerry's leadership on climate change are high versus Secretary Clinton, not known for her environmental proclivities.  This speech was the strongest signal yet from Kerry

Climate change called a 'weapon of mass destruction'

What made news was Kerry's use of the term 'weapon of mass destruction' to describe climate change impacts.

"And in a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction...
The fact is that climate change, if left unchecked, will wipe out many more communities from the face of the earth. And that is unacceptable under any circumstances – but is even more unacceptable because we know what we can do and need to do in order to deal with this challenge."

Kerry was not the first to make the WMD analogy a colleague pointed out today. Sir John Houghton, former Chief Executive at the UK Met Office wrote a 2003, op-ed in The Guardian, titled "Global warming is now a weapon of mass destruction - It kills more people than terrorism, yet Blair and Bush do nothing".

"I'm talking about big companies...that don't want to change"

Prior to the WMD statement, and perhaps more interesting, Kerry called out corporate interests on climate science denial and climate policy delay, in very strong words:

"We just don’t have time to let a few loud interests groups hijack the climate conversation. And when I say that, you know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about big companies that like it the way it is that don’t want to change, and spend a lot of money to keep you and me and everybody from doing what we know we need to do.
First and foremost, we should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific fact...I have to tell you, this is really not a normal kind of difference of opinion between people. Sometimes you can have a reasonable argument and a reasonable disagreement over an opinion you may have.
This is not opinion. This is about facts. This is about science. The science is unequivocal. And those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand. Now, President and I – Obama and I believe very deeply that we do not have time for a meeting anywhere of the Flat Earth Society."
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