Tag Archives: Bloomberg

FBI: Oil Trains At Risk of “Extremist” Attacks

Repost from DeSmogBlog
[Editor: DeSmog refers here to an October 2014 article by Curtis Tate of McClatchy News that first broke this story.  I regret that the Benicia Independent failed to take note of this important article back then.  I will add that I have mixed feelings about this report.  Folks my age are aware of a long history of rogue investigations by the FBI, and we’ve become understandably wary of government agencies that serve the needs of corporate interests.  Nonetheless, I fear that there are in fact real and horrendous risks of security attacks by unbalanced individuals on the left and the right – and abroad.  For me, this is only one more reason to ban oil trains.  – RS]

FBI Advisory: Oil Trains At Risk of “Extremist” Attack, But Lacks “Specific Information” To Verify

By Steve Horn, July 18, 2015 – 05:58
First responders in Lac Megantic. Photo: Transportation Board of Canada.

A documentmarked “Confidential” and published a year ago today, on July 18, 2014, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) concluded that “environmental extremists” could target oil-by-rail routes, as first reported on by McClatchyBut the Bureau also concedes upfront that it lacks “specific information” verifying this hunch.

Rail industry lobbying groups published the one-page FBI Private Sector Advisory as an exhibit to a jointly-submitted August 2014 comment sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT), which has proposed “bomb trains” regulations currently under review by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

FBI Oil by Rail Advisory

Image Credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation

We’ve heard overtures like this one before from the FBI, other agencies and from industry players themselves.

As reported here on DeSmog, the FBI worked alongside TransCanada to take photos and monitor Tar Sands Blockade-affiliated activists and other anti-Keystone XL pipeline activists back in 2012 and 2013. The Guardian, Bloomberg and Earth Island Journal have also recently published stories, based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, further confirming that the FBI worked closely alongside TransCanada to monitor and disrupt activists opposed to the pipeline.

In August 2014, DeSmog also reported that in Maryland, rail company Norfolk Southern submitted a July 23, 2014 legal filing to the Maryland Department of the Environment citing Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in its attempt to justify keeping oil-by-rail routes a trade secret. Norfolk submitted that filing merely five days after the FBI published its Private Sector Advisory.

And at a 2011 industry public relations conference in Houston, a communication manager at a major company involved in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for shale oil and gas told the audience his community affairs employees use psychological warfare (PSYOPs) techniques in local communities, while another compared fracking opponents to “insurgents” who should be fended off by PR campaigns modeled after counterinsurgency warfare.

ISIS, AQAP, Bin Laden

While Norfolk Southern cited Biden Laden and Al Qaeda in its affidavit, the FBI honed in on the Islamic State (IS), also sometimes referred to as the Islamic State in Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL). It also mentioned Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — and Osama Bin Laden.

Like Maryland, the rail industry lobbying groups cited the FBI Advisory as a way to argue against disclosing oil-by-rail routes to the public.

“It is not just environmental extremists who pose a threat to the transportation of crude by rail.  Foreign terrorists are also a risk,” wrote the industry lobbying groups. “Two publications reportedly by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula contain threats against crude oil trains…Furthermore, information from Osama Bin Laden’s compound indicates that Al-Qaeda has contemplated attacks on trains.”

Louis Warchot, an attorney for the Association of American Railroads, co-authored the comment submitted to DOT.

Before working for the association, Warchot “served in the United States Armed Forces and retired in the rank of Colonel in the United States Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s Corps.” On top of his law, business masters and undergraduate degrees from University of California-Berkeley, Warchot also has a masters from the U.S. Army War College in Strategic Studies.

“Extremism” or Peaceful Activism?

In the FBI‘s advisory, it never uses the term “activist” or “advocate,” opting instead for the term “extremist.” So what does an “extremist” do and what exactly constitutes an extremist?

“Environmental extremists,” explains the Bureau, “believe the use of fossil fuels contributes to the destruction of our environment and may believe that transport of crude oil creates the potential for environmental hazardous train derailments and oil spills.”

It’s a definition that almost anyone who understands the science of climate change or is concerned about oil train explosions could fall under. The FBI then lays out what these “extremists” do.

According to the FBI, they use social media to spread awareness of oil-by-rail routes (like sharing a link to the ForestEthics website “Oil Train Blast Zone”) and make or send “threatening” phone calls or emails to industry, contractors or others associated with moving crude by rail.

“[T]actics to disrupt, obstruct or interrupt rail traffic to delay crude oil transportation” also makes the FBI cut, which is an activity that anti-coal activists sometimes take part in as a means of delaying coal trains.

FBI Oil by Rail Advisory
Image Credit: Federal Bureau of Investigation

“The FBI should be looking carefully at the imminent threat oil trains pose to millions of Americans living in the blast zone, but they should then turn their attention to the lax rules from the Department of Transportation and the oil and rail industry who fight common sense safety steps and hide train routes from emergency responders,” Ross Hammond, US Campaigns Director for ForestEthics, told DeSmog.

Speaking of threats, perhaps the FBI should concern itself with the explosive oil-by-rail trains that pass underneath West Point and right next to nuclear missile launch sites, rather than things that fall under the purview of First Amendment-protected speech threatening to industry profits.

*An earlier version of this article cited Chemical Security News as the first website to report on the FBI document. McClatchy DC was actually the first news outlet to report on the document’s existence as part of the U.S. Department of Transportation oil-by-rail rulemaking docket back in October 2014. We regret the error.

Photo Credit: First responders in Lac Megantic via Transportation Board of Canada.

Share...

    ‘Severe… Pervasive… Irreversible”: IPCC’s Devastating Climate Change Conclusions

    Repost from Common Dreams
    [Editor: The fact of climate change is CRITICAL CONTEXT for any decision on Valero’s grab for inexpensive, dangerous and dirty North American crude oil.  Valero is aware of this, thus the manipulative claim that their project would actually reduce greenhouse gases in the wider Bay Area, while ignoring the truly LOCAL air quality impacts in Benicia, and obfuscating the finding of significant and unavoidable air quality impacts uprail.  – RS]

    ‘Severe… Pervasive… Irreversible”: IPCC’s Devastating Climate Change Conclusions

    A draft of the UN panel’s synthesis report on the global scientific community’s assessment of human-caused global warming offers the starkest and most strongly-worded warning yet of the dangers ahead
    August 27, 2014, by Common Dreams, Jon Queally, staff writer

    Climate change is here. Climate change is now. Climate change will be significantly more dangerous, deadly, and expensive if nothing is done to correct humanity’s course, but aspects of future shifts are probably already irreversible.

    That’s the assessment of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has sent world governments a draft of its final “Synthesis Report” which seeks to tie together previous reports the panel has released over the last year and offers a stark assessment of the perilous future the planet and humanity face due to global warming and climate change.

    Based on a clear and overwhelming consensus among the world’s leading scientists, the draft says that failure to adequately acknowledge and act on previous warnings has put the planet on a path where “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” of human-caused climate change will surely be felt in the decades to come.

    In a clear statement regarding the dangers of continued inaction, the draft report declares: “The risk of abrupt and irreversible change increases as the magnitude of the warming increases.”

    Obtained by several media outlets—including the Associated Press, the New York Times, and Bloomberg—the draft includes not new information per se, but employs stronger language and contains a more urgent warning than the previous reports from the IPCC which it attempts to synthesize and summarize.

    Asked for his reaction to the draft, Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann wrote this to the AP in an email: “The report tells us once again what we know with a greater degree of certainty: that climate change is real, it is caused by us, and it is already causing substantial damage to us and our environment. If there is one take home point of this report it is this: We have to act now.”

    As IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri explained in a statement, the last report—which still faces a final review, editing, and approval process—is designed to integrate “the findings of the three working group contributions to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report and two special reports” and “provide policymakers with a scientific foundation to tackle the challenge of climate change.” Taken together, the IPCC reports and their recommendations are designed to help governments and other stakeholders work together at various levels, including a new international agreement to limit climate change, he said.

    According to the Associated Press, which reviewed the 127-page document, the IPCC draft

    paints a harsh warning of what’s causing global warming and what it will do to humans and the environment. It also describes what can be done about it.

    “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems,” the report says. The final report will be issued after governments and scientists go over the draft line by line in an October conference in Copenhagen.

    Depending on circumstances and values, “currently observed impacts might already be considered dangerous,” the report says. It mentions extreme weather and rising sea levels, such as heat waves, flooding and droughts. It even raises, as an earlier report did, the idea that climate change will worsen violent conflicts and refugee problems and could hinder efforts to grow more food. And ocean acidification, which comes from the added carbon absorbed by oceans, will harm marine life, it says.

    Without changes in greenhouse gas emissions, “climate change risks are likely to be high or very high by the end of the 21st century,” the report says.

    And the New York Times noted:

    Using blunter, more forceful language than the reports that underpin it, the new draft highlights the urgency of the risks that are likely to be intensified by continued emissions of heat-trapping gases, primarily carbon dioxide released by the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

    The report found that companies and governments had identified reserves of these fuels at least four times larger than could safely be burned if global warming is to be kept to a tolerable level.

    That means if society wants to limit the risks to future generations, it must find the discipline to leave a vast majority of these valuable fuels in the ground, the report said.

    It cited rising political efforts around the world on climate change, including efforts to limit emissions as well as to adapt to changes that have become inevitable. But the report found that these efforts were being overwhelmed by construction of facilities like new coal-burning power plants that will lock in high emissions for decades.

    From 1970 to 2000, global emissions of greenhouse gases grew at 1.3 percent a year. But from 2000 to 2010, that rate jumped to 2.2 percent a year, the report found, and the pace seems to be accelerating further in this decade.

    The IPCC draft will not be finalized until after governments have a chance to weigh in on the report and following a meeting in Copenhagen slated for late October.

    In September, the United Nations is hosting its next international climate summit in New York City and climate campaigners are hoping to capitalize on the meeting by planning what they are calling the “People’s Climate March” during the same week as a way to apply pressure on world governments to finally act on the issue.

    If nothing else, the leaked IPCC draft report will serve to galvanize and add weight to the climate justice movement, which has consistently demanded that world leaders respond to the crisis with action—not words.

    As David Turnbull, director of campaigns for the group Oil Change International, which is signed-on to support the New York march, said recently: “Politicians have come together too many times with nothing more than rhetoric and empty promises in tow. Next month, thousands of true leaders will be marching on the streets of New York demanding real action. The question is, will our elected leaders follow.”

    Share...

      US “Not Immune” to Oil Price Hike

      Repost from Oil Change International
      [Editor: Significant quote: “Put simply the oil boom has not insulated American consumers from the price spike that the violence in Iraq will cause. And Iraq is not the only major oil producer with ongoing political instability. Think about recent events in Nigeria, Venezuela and Libya, to name just three.”  – RS]

      US “Not Immune” to Oil Price Hike

      Andy Rowell, June 16, 2014

      Crisis_in_Iraq_leading_to_higher_gas_pricesFor years the American oil industry has argued that the ongoing U.S. oil boom will bring about “energy independence” and drive gasoline prices  down. Americans are supposed to be enjoying an era of cheap, plentiful energy.

      As the oil industry has set about fracking America, decades of declining production has been reversed in just a handful of years. The US is now the world’s largest producer of oil and gas.

      The oil industry has persuaded or forced communities across North America to compromise their water supplies and their health to allow the fracking revolution with the promise of lower prices and energy security.

      So American consumers should apparently be appreciating the impact of the country’s shale revolution as crude oil and condensates production has just surpassed its previous peak, reached way back in 1970. A 44-year old record has just been broken.

      Not so. As the Energy Policy Information Centre pointed out, at the end of last month. “Despite all the promise of the oil boom, for most Americans, its economic benefits remain an abstract concept in the absence of relief at the gas station.”

      The sad truth is that despite the US economy being half as “oil intense” compared to the 1970s – as measured by barrels of oil consumed per $1,000 of GDP –  American households and businesses still spend a staggering 900 billion dollars annually on petroleum.  The average American household dedicates around 5.3% of its spending to petroleum, with the burden felt much more heavily by low income households.

      And here comes the real irony. Despite the US reaching a record production peak, last week the price of Brent crude rose 4 per cent, its biggest one-week rise since July last year. Wholesale US gasoline rose with it and thus US consumers will notice higher pump prices probably as soon as this week (see chart).

      FT RBOB Gasoline 10 days to June 16Source: Financial Times

      And the reason is the ongoing turmoil in Iraq. The escalating violence there is threatening supplies from OPEC’s second largest producer, which produces in excess of 3 million barrels of oil a day.

      Bloomberg is quoting Societe Generale saying that if the violence escalates and production is affected, Brent crude may jump from its current position of $113 to $120 or even $125. It may go even higher.

      “This is a serious situation in terms of the global oil market,” Victor Shum, a vice president at IHS Energy Insight in Singapore, told Bloomberg. “This situation in Iraq really threatens potential supply growth going forward.”

      So far the fighting has not spread to the south, where the US Energy Information Administration estimates that three-quarters of Iraq’s crude output is produced. But if the Southern oil fields fall, the global oil price could skyrocket to unprecedented levels.

      What this shows, as Ed Crooks, points out in today’s Financial Times is that, despite its own fracking revolution, “the US is not immune to the effects of disruption in world markets.”

      Put simply the oil boom has not insulated American consumers from the price spike that the violence in Iraq will cause. And Iraq is not the only major oil producer with ongoing political instability. Think about recent events in Nigeria, Venezuela and Libya, to name just three.

      The boom that is needed in order to truly insulate the American economy from the relentless turmoil in oil producing countries is a boom in efficiency, public transit, smart growth and electric vehicles. These technologies and policy initiatives are here now and ready to go, but the political and financial weight behind them has been overshadowed by the lure of oil boom riches.

      Instead of “All of the Above“, we need energy policies that will help American’s reduce the amount of oil they need to buy, at any price.

      Share...