Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu Calls Tar Sands “Filth”

Repost from Oil Change International

Desmond Tutu Calls Tar Sands “Filth”

Andy Rowell, June 2, 2014  

desmond-tutu

Over the last couple of years the Canadians have become accustomed to growing international criticism of their reckless and belligerent exploitation of the tar sands. They have aggressively just carried on drilling, nonetheless.

But when one of the iconic human rights activists in the world, South African Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Desmond Tutu, calls the tar sands “filth” and a result of “negligence and greed”, it will be much more difficult for the Canadians to ignore.

“The fact that this filth is being created now, when the link between carbon emissions and global warming is so obvious, reflects negligence and greed,” Tutu told an audience of about 200 at a conference in Fort McMurray over the weekend.

During the conference, which was held to highlight First Nation treaty rights, Tutu added that the tar sands were “emblematic of an era of high carbon and high-risk fuels that must end if we are committed to a safer climate.”

He also added that tar sands “development not only devastates our shared climate, it is also stripping away the rights of First Nations and affected communities to protect their children, land and water from being poisoned.”

Following the speech, the veteran anti-apartheid campaigner went on helicopter tour over the tar sands.

This is not Tutu’s first foray into the politics of the tar sands. He had previously signed a letter by 11 Nobel Prize Laureates urging U.S. President Barack Obama to reject the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Over the weekend Tutu likened “the struggle of citizens against the pipelines” as being on “the front lines of the most important struggles in North America today.”

Tutu listed a number of campaign ideas which would have delighted anti-fossil fuel campaigners: boycotts of events sponsored by the fossil fuel industry; health warnings on oil company adverts and divestment of fossil fuel industry investments held by universities and local  municipalities.

The conference was co-sponsored by the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, whose elder, Chief Allan Adam said that Tutu’s words had brought “a credible stance” to the position that First Nations needed to be a full consulted partner in all future decisions about both the current and upcoming tar sands projects which are located in their traditional territory.

Eriel Deranger, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s director, opened the second day of the conference. “We will not tolerate threat to our rights, lands, water and to us all and all future generations,” she said.

“Internalized oppression is perpetuating the cycle of oppression, ” she added. “If we don’t break that cycle, break the process of colonization and understand our strength as original inhabitants and original governments of this country, we’ll never make it.  We have to teach our communities.”

She finished by saying: “We have to break the cycle.  Truth and reconciliation is such an important thing.  We have to come back to a deep understanding of our rights and the powers we hold as Indigenous people.”

Not surprisingly, Tutu’s words have created a backlash in Canada. One commentator called him a “hypocrite, and a symbolist, for whom imagery and headlines matter more than facts and truth.”

But when the Canadians have to stoop so low as to attack someone with the international respect of Desmond Tutu, you know that they are extremely worried.

Please share!

Petition: Stop the Killer Oil Trains

Repost from Oil Change International
[Editor: Links on this page take YOU to Oil Change International’s website where you can sign their petition to President Obama and the Department of Transportation.  ALSO – please sign our SafeBenicia petition!  – RS]

Stop the Killer Oil Trains

bomb-train

Big Oil is getting desperate: with pipelines being blocked left and right, the industry is increasingly turning to oil-by-rail as a way to transport their climate-destroying product to market. What’s worse, they’re doing it with ancient railcars that are prone to explode catastrophically when derailed.

We already know that oil-by-rail is not only dangerous, but deadly. In the summer of 2013, a train derailed in Lac-Megantic, Canada, leveling buildings and killing 47 people. Since then there have been dozens of train derailments and tanker car explosions across the continent, including on April 30th right in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia.

Right now, there are nearly a million barrels of oil per day crisscrossing the country by rail and there could be a whole lot more in the coming years. It’s time to stand up to the special interests and demand the safety of our communities and our climate be put ahead of corporate profits.

Write to President Obama and the Department of Transportation demanding an end to bomb trains.

Please share!

Oil Majors Resist Call To Boost Leadership On Climate Change

Repost from Forbes.com
[Editor: This is a MUST READ report on unsatisfactory results of a great investor effort, called the Carbon Asset Risk (CAR) initiative, (coordinated by Ceres and the Carbon Tracker initiative, with support from the Global Investor Coalition on Climate Change).  – RS]

Oil Majors Need To Boost Leadership On Climate Change

5/29/2014  |  Mindy Lubber

Earlier this month, Shell became the latest oil major to respond to an international group of investors asking the world’s largest fossil fuel companies to assess the risks they face from climate change. These investors, managing trillions of dollars in assets, are motivated by concerns that companies in their portfolios are not adequately preparing for a future of lower demand for fossil fuels as the world transitions to cleaner energy sources. Not to mention climate-related physical impacts such as rising seas, stronger storms and more severe droughts.

Norwegian oil rig Statfjord A

Like its peers ExxonMobil and Statoil, which have also responded publicly to the request, Shell says it views climate change as a serious issue, and that the company invests in carbon-reducing technologies and incorporates a carbon price in business planning. And, like Statoil, Shell calls the current international goal to limit global warming to below two degrees Celsius “desirable.”

While it is good to see these companies publicly acknowledging climate change and the need to reduce carbon pollution, Shell and its peers appear to be preparing for a world of ever rising – not declining – oil demand. Indeed, ExxonMobil, Statoil and Shell all argue that oil demand will keep growing until at least 2030. They largely ignore the grim picture painted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of what the world will probably look like if carbon pollution continues unabated, arguing that it is impossible to turn the tide in the timeframe scientists say is necessary. As a result, the companies reject the idea that they face any substantive financial risk.

Of course, these arguments are not surprising. In fact, the companies’ approach to shareholder engagement on this issue has been a constant refrain about the essential role they play in meeting the world’s insatiable demand for fossil fuels. This perspective is short-sighted and needs to evolve.

Shell and Statoil do provide some discussion of the International Energy Agency’s scenario that shows how the two-degree goal could be achieved, which shows oil demand peaking around 2020 and then declining. But they are quick to point out that even under that scenario, the world will continue to use oil and companies will need to make new oil discoveries to meet consumer demand. Statoil comes the closest to answering investors, saying, “In Statoil we are of the opinion that we have a fairly robust project portfolio, even in the event that global or regional climate regulations were to become much stricter than what we currently expect.”

Investors know that the world is not going to stop using oil overnight, and they aren’t advocating for that either. Rather, as smart stewards of capital, investors want to know what oil projects companies are betting billions on, which may be suspect down the road. These riskier, expensive projects – like deepwater drilling and oil sands – might make sense according to the companies’ bullish oil demand growth forecasts, but would be highly questionable in a world where some of that demand growth doesn’t materialize.

This is a critical question for investors, not just because they don’t want to finance oil projects that shouldn’t go forward in a world that takes the economic threat of climate change seriously, but also because oil demand destruction is a real risk. Companies know this, but are declining to discuss it publicly.

Recent research by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) shows that, over the last decade, capital spending by the 11 largest publicly traded oil companies has increased five-fold, while their production levels have remained essentially flat. Meanwhile, despite historically high oil prices, their returns have fallen below a 30-year average of 11 percent, leading firms like Goldman Sachs to raise questions about whether companies can generate enough cash to meet their dividend and investment commitments without oil prices rising even higher. Yet, CTI shows how, in a world that tackles climate change, lower oil demand could push oil prices down to around $75 per barrel.

In its response, Shell outlines an upstream capital investment budget for 2014, including exploration expenditures of $35 billion, with the “oil” element of that being an estimated $10 billion. Indeed, over the next decade, CTI shows that the oil industry has the potential to invest an estimated $1.1 trillion for high-cost oil projects that require oil prices above $95 per barrel to be profitable. Shell accounts for more than $63 billion of that. While such projects are economically marginal even at today’s oil prices of just over $100 per barrel, they could become uneconomic if oil demand were to decline by a relatively small amount. Shell openly admits that high oil prices are needed to make such projects viable.

Despite how much certainty these companies have expressed that strong international policies on climate change are unlikely in the next few years – and we have reason to believe they’re wrong – this isn’t the only factor that could dampen oil demand. We’re already seeing increasing fuel efficiency, fuel substitution and technological advances in clean energy and electric vehicles. The oil majors themselves are already seeing flat to declining oil demand in the U.S. and other developed countries due to these factors. They see virtually all of the demand growth coming from the developing world, and argue that meeting that demand is important to improve living standards for the world’s poor. It’s a fair point.

But what is the best way to meet that energy demand, considering that climate change disproportionately affects the world’s poor? Scientists warn that hundreds of millions of people will be displaced by the end of this century due to climate impacts, increasing the risk of violent conflict and wiping trillions off the global economy. Furthermore, how much oil will the developing world actually demand if prices keep rising? Given that oil prices are high now and the industry needs them to stay that way, oil alternatives would be a safer bet as developing countries reach for the living standards of the developed world.

It’s not only fair for investors to be asking companies for more transparency around their capital spending plans – it is the fiscally responsible thing to do. We have mistakenly invested in companies and markets that were ‘too big to fail’ in the past, and we have seen the catastrophic results. The fact is that the effects of the subprime mortgage meltdown on the global economy pales in comparison to what will happen if we do not change how we invest in energy. As major players in an industry the world relies on for so much, ExxonMobil, Statoil and Shell have not yet demonstrated the kind of leadership we need from them.

Please share!