For the past few years, momentum is building all along communities throughout California concerned about the growing threat of oil trains. ForestEthics, in partnership with filmmaker Bunker Seyfert, is excited to share this new short piece highlighting the campaign to stop the proposed Phillips 66 oil train terminal in San Luis Obispo County.
Please watch and share! – Ethan Buckner, US Organizer, ForestEthics
Stop #OilTrains in California
California could be the site of the next oil train disaster, unless we take action now at ProtectSLO.org.
Multinational oil company Phillips 66 is proposing to expand its San Luis Obispo County refinery to receive oil trains carrying explosive, toxic, and carbon-intensive tar sands oil. If approved, more of these oil trains will begin rolling through California’s communities, threatening schools, homes, community centers, and parks. Over 5 million California residents live in the oil train blast zone.
The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will make the final decision on this project, and they need to hear from us – residents of SLO County and other impacted California communities. Take action now and tell SLO County decision makers to reject this dangerous project.
California governor orders aggressive greenhouse gas cuts by 2030
By Rory Carroll, Apr 29, 2015 11:28pm IST
(Reuters) – California Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order on Wednesday to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent by 2030, a move he said was necessary to combat the growing threat of climate change.
The targeted reduction was tied to 1990 levels and is “the most aggressive benchmark enacted by any government in North America to reduce dangerous carbon emissions,” Brown said in a statement.
California operates the nation’s largest carbon cap and trade system. The state sets an overall limit on carbon emissions and allows businesses to hand in tradeable permits to meet their obligations.
Achieving the new target will require reductions from sectors including industry, agriculture, energy and state and local governments, Brown said.
“I’ve set a very high bar, but it’s a bar we must meet,” Brown told a carbon market conference in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Brown said the new target will position California as a leader in combating climate change in the United States and internationally.
Brown said he has spoken to leaders in Oregon, Washington and Northeastern states about collaborating with California to cut their output of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Those states could potentially link to California’s carbon market in future years.
He said he has had similar discussions with leaders in the Canadian provinces of Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario, as well as in Germany, China and Mexico.
Quebec is already linked to the California market. Leaders in Ontario this month signaled their intention to join the program.
“This will be a local policy but it will be globally focused,” Brown told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the news and encouraged other states and cities around the world to also take action, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said.
“California’s bold commitment to tackling climate change is a strong example to states and regions all over the world that they can join their national governments in taking ownership of this critical issue and in showing leadership,” Haq said.
The plan for how California will achieve the 2030 target will be hammered out over the next year by the California Air Resources Board (ARB), which oversees the cap-and-trade program.
“With this bold action by the governor, California extends its leadership role and joins the community of states and nations that are committed to slash carbon pollution through 2030 and beyond,” said Mary Nichols, chair of the ARB.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles and Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Susan Heavey and David Gregorio)
Billionaire fights to keep tar-sands oil out of state
By David R. Baker, April 29, 2015
Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer has a new mission
— keeping oil from Canada’s tar sands out of California.
Steyer’s NextGen Climate organization released a report Tuesday warning that an “invasion” of tankers and railcars carrying crude from the oil sands could soon hit West Coast refineries, which currently process very little Canadian oil.
Steyer, a major Democratic donor who quit his hedge fund to focus on fighting climate change, has risen to prominence as a vocal opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline extension, which would link the oil sands to American refineries on the Gulf Coast.
But Tuesday’s report, prepared with the Natural Resources Defense Council and a coalition of other environmental groups, notes that the oil industry is pursuing other pipeline routes that would carry tar-sands petroleum to Canada’s Pacific Coast. From there, it could be shipped to refineries in California and Washington. In California, companies have proposed five new terminals for receiving oil shipped by rail — another potential means of entry. California’s policies to fight climate change discourage but don’t prevent the use of oil-sands crude.
“Keystone is not the only way the tar sands threaten our country,” Steyer said Tuesday at an event in Oakland, releasing the report. “The owners of the tar sands are always looking for other routes to the world’s oceans and the world’s markets.”
Steyer and other environmentalists have made blocking Keystone a rallying cry in the fight against global warming, since extracting hydrocarbons from the oil sands releases far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than other forms of oil production. And unlike common oil, the diluted bitumen (a tar-like substance extracted from the sands) sinks in water, making spills from pipelines and tankers difficult to clean.
“It is shockingly toxic, it is extremely nasty and it takes forever to clean up,” Steyer said. “To end the risk from tar-sands oil once and for all, we need to move beyond oil to a clean energy future. Luckily, this is the kind of leadership California excels at.”
The oil industry, and the Canadian government, call the oil sands a reliable source of oil from a friendly ally. And industry representatives often note that California’s dependence on imported oil has grown in recent years, in large part because production in Alaska — once one of California’s biggest suppliers of crude — has dropped.
Steyer has devoted a sizable chunk of his personal fortune, estimated at $1.6 billion, to backing political candidates who support action on climate change and targeting those who don’t, spending $73 million in the last election cycle. He said Tuesday that he has not yet decided whether to pay for an advertising campaign against bringing oil-sands crude to the West Coast.
“I’m not 100 percent sure,” he said. “Exactly how we fight it, I don’t think we’ve determined.”
Crude from the tar sands makes up a tiny fraction of the oil processed in California refineries — less than 3 percent, according to the report. And while the amount of oil shipped into the the Golden State by rail has soared in recent years, most of that petroleum comes from North Dakota and other states where hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has produced a glut of crude.
But oil companies have proposed two pipeline projects that would link the oil sands to the Pacific Ocean, both of them traveling through British Columbia. If built, they could lead to an additional 2,000 oil tankers and barges moving up and down the West Coast each year, according to the report. The rail terminal projects proposed in California could raise the amount of oil-sands crude processed in the state each day from the current 50,000 barrels to 650,000 barrels by 2040.
However, that outcome is hardly certain.
A California policy known as the low carbon fuel standard requires oil companies to cut by 10 percent the amount of carbon dioxide associated with each gallon of fuel they sell in the state, reaching that milestone by 2020. In addition, the state’s cap-and-trade system forces refineries to cut their overall greenhouse gas emissions. Neither policy specifically prevents refineries from using oil-sands crude, but both give oil companies a powerful incentive to use other sources of petroleum.
Anthony Swift, one of the report’s authors, said California needs to adopt more stringent emissions targets to keep out crude from the oil sands.
“These policies are a very good start,” said Swift, of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We need to get more robust targets — for both the low carbon fuel standard and the cap — to signal to the industry that California is not going to be an option for tar-sands refining.”
David R. Baker is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
Often dismissed as unwise by oil industry proponents and criticized as a distraction even by supporters of action on climate change, the divestment movement is no longer being ignored.
Look no further than CeraWeek, an annual get-together of North America’s fossil fuel elite. On April 22, amid discussion panels such as “Asia: Still the Promised Land for New Energy Investment?” or “Canada’s role in the rising North America energy powerhouse,” there was also a session dedicated to divestment and the implications for energy companies. The conversation analyzed how sustainable the business model is for fossil fuel companies as the world moves towards regulating carbon emissions.
The attention paid to the divestment at CeraWeek suggests that the growing publicity and success from the environmental movement’s ability to secure divestment commitments from universities, banks, pension funds, churches, and other wealth funds are starting to be perceived as a threat by the fossil fuel industry.
A few weeks earlier, The Guardian made a splash with its “Keep it in the Ground” campaign, a very firm declaration in support of divestment. The Guardian Media Group vowed to divest its £800 million fund as well.
The growing concern over carbon pollution raises the possibility of a regulatory or tax crackdown, both at the national and international level. Newsweek reported on April 21 that HSBC wrote in a private note to its clients that there is an increasing risk that fossil fuel companies will become “economically non-viable.” As a result, HSBC advised its clients to divest from fossil fuels because they may be too risky. If investors fail to get out of fossil fuels, the bank says, they “may one day be seen to be late movers, on ‘the wrong side of history.’” As the divestment campaign builds up steam, major oil and gas companies are starting to see the writing on the wall.
But there could be a way to adapt. The Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) just published a “blueprint” for fossil fuel companies to adapt to a carbon-constrained world. The blueprint provides several recommendations. For example, oil companies should avoid high cost projects such as the struggling Kashagan field in Kazakhstan or expensive oil sands projects in Canada. High-cost projects put companies at risk when they are hit with unforeseen events, such as an oil price crash, a decline in demand, or a change in tax regimes. Instead, companies should invest in lower risk projects with higher rates of return, CTI says. CTI also insists that corporate governance within fossil fuel companies is critical – management needs a clear-eyed prognosis of how exposed their assets are to a potential scenario in which their oil and gas reserves are no longer wanted.
It is far from clear whether or not the oil majors will heed CTI’s advice on adapting their companies. In mid-April, 98 percent of BP’s shareholders voted in favor of an initiative that would force the company to disclose which of its assets would become “unburnable” in a low-carbon world. The results of that analysis will be much anticipated. ExxonMobil undertook a similar study, but summarily dismissed the likelihood that its assets would be affected in the future by climate action.
“Our analysis and those of independent agencies confirms our long-standing view that all viable energy sources will be essential to meet increasing demand growth that accompanies expanding economies and rising living standards,” William Colton, ExxonMobil’s vice president of corporate strategic planning, said in a March 2014 statement. In other words, investors have little to fear — ExxonMobil will be fine.
However, much has changed since then. The divestment movement has gathered quite a bit of momentum as protests hit more campuses and city halls. The U.S. and China reached a landmark agreement to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. More countries will set policies to reduce energy demand ahead of international negotiations in Paris later this year. Oil prices have crashed, highlighting the vulnerabilities of many over-leveraged oil companies. And clean energy continues to make inroads, amid falling costs for solar, wind, and energy storage.
Oil companies ignore the divestment campaign – and other threats to their business models – at their own peril.