Tag Archives: Australia

Rich countries are subsidizing oil, gas and coal companies by $88 billion a year

Repost from The Guardian
[Editor: Hmmm… do you think maybe the anti-tax crowd will latch onto this one?  Not likely.  The Guardian story is an excellent summary of an incredibly important new study by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Oil Change International.  I highly recommend the original sources: a 4-page summary report and recommendations, the full 74 page report, and a 6-page report on the United States subsidies.  – RS]

Rich countries subsidising oil, gas and coal companies by $88bn a year

US, UK, Australia giving tax breaks to explore new reserves despite climate advice that fossil fuels should be left buried

Fossil fuel exploration subsidies – mapped

By John Vidal Monday 10 November 2014
The fossil fuel bailout - G20 subsidies for oil, gas and coal exploration
The fossil fuel bailout – G20 subsidies for oil, gas and coal exploration

Rich countries are subsidising oil, gas and coal companies by about $88bn (£55.4bn) a year to explore for new reserves, despite evidence that most fossil fuels must be left in the ground if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.

The most detailed breakdown yet of global fossil fuel subsidies has found that the US government provided companies with $5.2bn for fossil fuel exploration in 2013, Australia spent $3.5bn, Russia $2.4bn and the UK $1.2bn. Most of the support was in the form of tax breaks for exploration in deep offshore fields.

The public money went to major multinationals as well as smaller ones who specialise in exploratory work, according to British thinktank the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Washington-based analysts Oil Change International.

Britain, says their report, proved to be one of the most generous countries. In the five year period to 2014 it gave tax breaks totalling over $4.5bn to French, US, Middle Eastern and north American companies to explore the North Sea for fast-declining oil and gas reserves. A breakdown of that figure showed over $1.2bn of British money went to two French companies, GDF-Suez and Total, $450m went to five US companies including Chevron, and $992m to five British companies.

Britain also spent public funds for foreign companies to explore in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Ghana, Guinea, India and Indonesia, as well as Russia, Uganda and Qatar, according to the report’s data, which is drawn from the OECD, government documents, company reports and institutions.

Oil and gas exploration expenditure in G20 countries (public and private)
Oil and gas exploration expenditure in G20 countries (public and private). Photograph: ODI/Rystad Energy

The figures, published ahead of this week’s G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, contains the first detailed breakdown of global fossil fuel exploration subsidies. It shows an extraordinary “merry-go-round” of countries supporting each others’ companies. The US spends $1.4bn a year for exploration in Columbia, Nigeria and Russia, while Russia is subsidising exploration in Venezuela and China, which in turn supports companies exploring Canada, Brazil and Mexico.

“The evidence points to a publicly financed bail-out for carbon-intensive companies, and support for uneconomic investments that could drive the planet far beyond the internationally agreed target of limiting global temperature increases to no more than 2C,” say the report’s authors.

“This is real money which could be put into schools or hospitals. It is simply not economic to invest like this. This is the insanity of the situation. They are diverting investment from economic low-carbon alternatives such as solar, wind and hydro-power and they are undermining the prospects for an ambitious UN climate deal in 2015,” said Kevin Watkins, director of the ODI.

The report is important because it shows how reforming fossil fuel subsidies is a critical issue for climate change.

“The IPCC [UN climate science panel] is quite clear about the need to leave the vast majority of already proven reserves in the ground, if we are to meet the 2C goal. The fact that despite this science, governments are spending billions of tax dollars each year to find more fossil fuels that we cannot ever afford to burn, reveals the extent of climate denial still ongoing within the G20,” said Oil Change International director Steve Kretzman.

The report further criticises the G20 countries for providing over $520m a year of indirect exploration subsidies via the World Bank group and other multilateral development banks (MDBs) to which they contribute funds.

The authors expressed surprise that about four times as much money was spent on fossil fuel exploration as on renewable energy development.

“In parallel with the rising costs of fossil-fuel exploration and production, the costs of renewable-energy technologies continue to fall rapidly, and the speed of growth in installed capacity of renewables has outperformed predictions since 2000,” said the report.

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    Wall Street Journal: Big Oil Feels the Need to Get Smaller

    Repost from The Wall Street Journal

    Big Oil Feels the Need to Get Smaller

    Exxon, Shell, Chevron Pare Back as Rising Production Costs Squeeze Earnings
    By Daniel Gilbert and Justin Scheck, Nov. 2, 2014
    Shell_Ft.McMurrayAlberta_Bbrg500
    Extracting oil from Western Canada’s oil sands, such as at this Shell facility near Fort McMurray, Alberta, is a particularly expensive proposition. Bloomberg News

    As crude prices tumble, big oil companies are confronting what once would have been heresy: They need to shrink.

    Even before U.S. oil prices began their summer drop toward $80 a barrel, the three biggest Western oil companies had lower profit margins than a decade ago, when they sold oil and gas for half the price, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

    Despite collectively earning $18.9 billion in the third quarter, the three companies— Exxon Mobil Corp. , Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Chevron Corp. —are now shelving expansion plans and shedding operations with particularly tight profit margins.

    The reason for the shift lies in the rising cost of extracting oil and gas. Exxon, Chevron, Shell, as well as BP PLC, each make less money tapping fuels than they did 10 years ago. Combined, the four companies averaged a 26% profit margin on their oil and gas sales in the past 12 months, compared with 35% a decade ago, according to the analysis.

    Shell last week reported that its oil-and-gas production was lower than it was a decade ago and warned it is likely to keep falling for the next two years. Exxon’s output sank to a five-year low after the company disposed of less-profitable barrels in the Middle East. U.S.-based Chevron, for which production has been flat for the past year, is delaying major investments because of cost concerns.

    BP has pared back the most sharply, selling $40 billion in assets since 2010, largely to pay for legal and cleanup costs stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that year.

    SqueezePlaysWSJ.500

    To be sure, the companies, at least eventually, aim to pump more oil and gas. Exxon and Chevron last week reaffirmed plans to boost output by 2017.

    “If we went back a decade ago, the thought of curtailing spending because crude was $80 a barrel would blow people’s minds,” said Dan Pickering, co-president of investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. “The inherent profitability of the business has come down.”

    It isn’t only major oil companies that are pulling back. Oil companies world-wide have canceled or delayed more than $200 billion in projects since the start of last year, according to an estimate by research firm Sanford C. Bernstein.

    In the past, the priority for big oil companies was to find and develop new oil and gas fields as fast as possible, partly to replace exhausted reserves and partly to show investors that the companies still could grow.

    But the companies’ sheer size has meant that only huge, complex—and expensive—projects are big enough to make a difference to the companies’ reserves and revenues.

    As a result, Exxon, Shell and Chevron have chased large energy deposits from the oil sands of Western Canada to the frigid Central Asian steppes. They also are drilling to greater depths in the Gulf of Mexico and building plants to liquefy natural gas on a remote Australian island. The three companies shelled out a combined $500 billion between 2009 and last year. They also spend three times more per barrel than smaller rivals that focus on U.S. shale, which is easier to extract.

    The production from some of the largest endeavors has yet to materialize. While investment on projects to tap oil and gas rose by 80% from 2007 to 2013 for the six biggest oil companies, according to JBC Energy Markets, their collective oil and gas output fell 6.5%.

    Several major ventures are scheduled to begin operations within a year, however, which some analysts have said could improve cash flow and earnings.

    For decades, the oil industry relied on what Shell Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry calls its “colonial past” to gain access to low-cost, high-volume oil reserves in places such as the Middle East. In the 1970s, though, governments began driving harder bargains with companies.

    Oil companies still kept trying to produce more oil, however. In the late 1990s, “it would have been unacceptable to say the production will go down,” Mr. Henry said.

    Oil companies were trying to appease investors by promising to boost production and cut investment.

    “We promised everything,” Mr. Henry said. Now, “those chickens did come home to roost.”

    Shell has “about a third of our balance sheet in these assets making a return of 0%,” Shell Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said in a recent interview. Shell projects should have a profit margin of at least 10%, he said. “If that means a significantly smaller business, then I’m prepared to do that.”

    Shell late last year canceled a $20 billion project to convert natural gas to diesel in Louisiana and this year halted a Saudi gas project where the company had spent millions of dollars.

    The Anglo-Dutch company also has dialed back on shale drilling in the U.S. and Canada and abandoned its production targets.

    U.S.-based Exxon earlier this year allowed a license to expire in Abu Dhabi, where the company had pumped oil for 75 years, and sold a stake in an oil field in southern Iraq because they didn’t offer sufficiently high returns.

    Exxon is investing “not for the sake of growing volume but for the sake of capturing value,” Jeff Woodbury, the head of investor relations, said Friday.

    Even Chevron, which said it planned to increase output by 2017, has lowered its projections. The company has postponed plans to develop a large gas field in the U.K. to help bring down costs. The company also recently delayed an offshore drilling project in Indonesia.

    The re-evaluation has also come because the companies have been spending more than the cash they bring in. In nine of the past 10 quarters, Exxon, for example, has spent more on dividends, share buybacks and capital and exploration costs than it has generated from operations and by selling assets.

    Though refining operations have cushioned the blow of lower oil prices, the companies indicated that they might take on more debt if crude gets even cheaper. U.S. crude closed Friday at $80.54 a barrel.

    Chevron finance chief Patricia Yarrington said the company planned to move forward with its marquee projects and is willing to draw on its $14.2 billion in cash to pay dividends and repurchase shares.

    “We are not bothered in a temporary sense,” she said. “We obviously can’t do that for a long period of time.”

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      Grant Cooke: Big Oil’s endgame: While fossil fuel costs keep rising, renewable costs fall

      Repost from The Benicia Herald
      [Editor: Benicia’s own Grant Cooke has written a highly significant three-part series for The Benicia Herald, outlining the impending fall of the fossil fuel industry and concluding with good advice for the City of Benicia and other cities dependent on refineries for a major portion of their local revenue stream.  This is the second of three parts.  Read part one by CLICKING HERE and part three by CLICKING HERE.  – RS]

      Grant Cooke: Big Oil’s endgame: While fossil fuel costs keep rising, renewable costs fall

      October 4, 2014, by Grant Cooke

      Grant Cooke, Benicia, California“The Stone Age came to an end, not because we had a lack of stones, and the oil age will come to an end not because we have a lack of oil.” — Sheikh Ahmed-Zaki Yamani

      THREE KEY FACTORS WILL PUT TO REST the fossil fuel industry and make the good Sheikh Yamani’s prediction come true. Two of them are discussed here.

      The first is that the carbon emitters will be held accountable and made to pay for using the atmosphere as a garbage can. While still struggling to price the cost of pollution, most nations, as well as California, have come to realize that the heavy carbon emitters need to pay for the damage they have done. A cap-and-trade process is the first method to hold the emitters accountable. While imperfect and not nearly as effective as a straight carbon tax, this system is growing throughout the world. The European Union’s program, which started several years ago and was described by the fossil fuel interests as failing, is now deemed a success. It has become an established part of European culture and corporate practice. Various nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Korea and China have developed cap-and-trade programs as well.

      California’s own program continues to grow, and our carbon offsets are tradable in parts of Canada as well. As it gains momentum, other states are watching California’s program and thinking about adopting their own. Impoverished state governments see cap-and-trade programs as a boon to their environment and a way to garner vital tax revenues. Since increases in personal income tax are so unpopular, cap-and-trade is seen as a way to bring new money into state treasuries without risking voter rebellions.

      The pressure to make the major carbon emitters pay for their pollution is coming from the agreements made at the 2012 UN Conference on Climate Change in Doha, Qatar. At this conference world governments consolidated the gains of the last three years of international climate change negotiations and opened a gateway to greater ambition and action. Among the decisions was to concentrate on a universal climate agreement by 2015, which would come into effect in 2020. The 2015 conference will be held in Paris, and world governments are expecting much greater cooperation and agreement on carbon-reduction policies from the U.S. and other major emitters.

      The world is slowly accepting the reality that the mitigation of climate change is a massive problem. A 2012 report by Climate Vulnerable Forum estimated that more than 100 million people will die and the international economy will lose out on more than 3 percent of GDP ($1.2 trillion) by 2030 if the world fails to tackle climate change. But because governments don’t want to use their funds for environmental cleanup and climate change mitigation, it will be the heavy emitters like the oil, coal and utility companies that will pay.

      This cost for carbon cleanup, added to the increasing costs of extracting hard-to-get fossil fuel resources, will hit the oil industry hard. A 2013 Harvard University report showed that the cost externalities from coal were about 18 cents per kilowatt hour. Most U.S. end-users who rely on coal-generated electricity pay about 10 cents per kWh. If the external costs were added, those users would pay closer to 30 cents per kWh — which would severely impact those users’ lifestyles.

      Grid parity

      The second major factor hastening the end of today’s megalithic fossil fuel industries is “grid parity.” Grid parity is a technical term meaning that the cost to a consumer for electricity from a renewable source (without subsidies) is about equal to the cost from a traditional source — be it fossil fuel or nuclear. The Germans used grid parity to price their feed-in-tariff program, or FiT, that launched Energiewende.

      Simply put, with PGE’s 2014 rate increase a Benicia resident or small commercial consumer pays about 20 (19.9) cents per kWh for electricity from traditional sources. If that same kWh came from a renewable source and cost the consumer an equal 20 cents, then the renewable source would be at “parity,” or equal to the cost of the traditional generation source.

      However, the cost of traditional energy is rising, driven by higher extracting costs, increasing maintenance costs for natural gas pipelines and increases in operating cost at nuclear power plants. At the same time the costs for renewable energy — wind, solar photovoltaic and biowaste fuels — are declining.

      The costs for wind generation have been and still are the lowest. However, the costs for solar are declining rapidly as its use spreads. Deutsche Bank reported in January 2014 that there were 19 regions around the world where unsubsidized PV solar power costs were competitive with other forms of generation. In fact, PV competes directly in price with oil, diesel and liquefied natural gas in much of Asia. This equality of costs with fossil fuel and natural gas is creating a worldwide solar boom in 2014-15.

      In the U.S., almost 30 percent of last year’s added electricity capacity came from solar. In Vermont and Massachusetts, almost 100 percent added capacity came from solar. According to the U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association, more solar was installed in the U.S. in the past 18 months than in the last 30 years. Solar PV technology, which has been helped by the U.S. military, is improving so fast that it has achieved a virtuous circle.

      As described by New York’s Sanford and Bernstein investment bank, we have entered an era of “global energy deflation.” This ratcheting down of energy costs may be slow to start, but as they argue, the fossil fuel-dominated energy market will experience a major decline in costs over the next decade. The market is entering a new order that will erode the viability of oil, gas and the fossil fuel continuum.

      The report argues that the adoption of solar in developing markets will translate into less demand for kerosene and diesel oil. The adoption of solar in the Middle East means less oil demand, and the adoption of solar in China and developing Asia means less liquefied natural gas demand. Further, distributed solar in the U.S., Europe and Australia will likely reduce demand for natural gas.

      They reason that while solar has a fractional share of the current market, within a decade solar PV and related battery storage may have such a large market share that it becomes a trigger for energy price deflation, with huge consequences for the massive fossil fuel industry that is dependent on continued growth.

      Even the Saudis are betting on solar, investing more than $100 billion in 41 gigawatts of capacity, enough to cover 30 percent of their power needs by 2030. Most of the other Gulf states have similar plans.

      Grant Cooke is a long-time Benicia resident and CEO of Sustainable Energy Associates. He is co-author, with Nobel Peace Prize winner Woodrow Clark, of “The Green Industrial Revolution: Energy, Engineering and Economics,” to be released in October by Elsevier.

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        Global marches draw attention to climate change

        Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle

        Global marches draw attention to climate change

        By VERENA DOBNIK and MICHAEL SISAK, Associated Press, September 22, 2014
        People protest for greater action against climate change during the People's Climate March on September 21, 2014 in New York City. The march, which calls for drastic political and economic changes to slow global warming, has been organized by a coalition of unions, activists, politicians and scientists. Photo: Andrew Burton, Getty Images
        People protest for greater action against climate change during the People’s Climate March on September 21, 2014 in New York City. The march, which calls for drastic political and economic changes to slow global warming, has been organized by a coalition of unions, activists, politicians and scientists. | Photo: Andrew Burton, Getty Images

        NEW YORK (AP) — Tens of thousands of activists walked through Manhattan on Sunday, warning that climate change is destroying the Earth — in stride with demonstrators around the world who urged policymakers to take quick action.

        Starting along Central Park West, most came on foot, others with bicycles and walkers, and some even in wheelchairs. Many wore costumes and marched to drumbeats. One woman played the accordion.

        But their message was not entertaining:

        “We’re going to lose our planet in the next generation if things continue this way,” said BertGarskof, 81, as a family member pushed his wheelchair through Times Square.

        He had first heard about global warming in 1967, “when no one was paying much attention,” said Garskof, a native New Yorker and professor of psychology at Connecticut’s Quinnipiac University.

        Organizers said more than 100,000 marched in New York, including actors Mark Ruffalo and Evangeline Lilly. They were joined in midtown Manhattan by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

        On Tuesday, more than 120 world leaders will convene for the United Nations Climate Summit aimed at galvanizing political will for a new global climate treaty by the end of 2015.

        “My sense is the energy you see on the streets, the numbers that have amassed here and in other cities around the world, show that something bigger is going on, and this U.N. summit will be one of the ones where we look back and say it was a difference maker,” de Blasio said.

        Ban agreed.

        “Climate change is a defining issue of our time and there is no time to lose,” he said. “There is no Plan B because we do not have planet B. We have to work and galvanize our action.”

        The New York march was one of a series of events held around the world to raise awareness about climate change.

        In London, organizers said 40,000 marchers participated, while a small gathering in Cairo featured a huge art piece representing wind and solar energy. In Rio de Janeiro, marchers at Ipanema Beach had green hearts painted on their faces.

        Celebrities in London including actress Emma Thompson and musician Peter Gabriel joined thousands of people crossing the capital’s center, chanting: “What do we want? Clean energy. When do we want it? Now.”

        “This is important for every single person on the planet, which is why it has to be the greatest grass roots movement of all time,” Thompson said. “This is the battle of our lives. We’re fighting for our children.”

        In New York, a contingent came from Moore, Oklahoma, where a massive tornado killed 24 people last year, as did hundreds of people affected by Superstorm Sandy, which the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the British meteorological office said was made more likely by climate change.

        In Australia, the largest rally was in Melbourne, where an estimated 10,000 people took to the streets with banners and placards calling on their government to do more to combat global warming.

        Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was a particular target of the protesters. Abbott’s center-right coalition has removed a carbon tax and has restricted funding for climate change bodies since coming to power last year.

        Associated Press writer Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.
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