Tag Archives: Charles and David Koch

Why U.S. oil companies clash with EU peers on global warming

Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle

Why U.S. oil companies clash with EU peers on global warming

By David R. Baker, Sunday, June 7, 2015 11:37 am
John Watson, CEO of the Chevron Corporation, speaks during an energy summit in Washington, D.C., in 2011. Photo: Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images
John Watson, CEO of the Chevron Corporation, speaks during an energy summit in Washington, D.C., in 2011. Photo: Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images

The fight against climate change has opened a trans-Atlantic rift in an industry often seen as a monolith — Big Oil.

Unwilling to sit on the sidelines of climate negotiations, Europe’s largest oil companies last month issued a joint statement calling for a worldwide price on the greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning their products. Such a price, they said, would help the global economy transition to cleaner sources of energy.

The CEOs of BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil and Total all signed the statement.

None of their American counterparts did.

Chevron Corp. CEO John Watson argued that his European colleagues are pushing a policy that consumers would never embrace. Focus instead on developing nuclear plants and natural gas reserves to fight global warming, he said.

“It’s not a policy that is going to be effective, because customers want affordable energy,” Watson said last week, at an OPEC seminar in Vienna. “They want low energy prices, not high energy prices.”

The split, analysts say, reflects the stark divide between climate politics in Europe and the United States.

Europe already has a cap-and-trade system for setting a price on greenhouse gas emissions. Public debate over global warming revolves around how best to fight it, not whether it exists.

In the United States, many conservatives still insist that warming is either a natural phenomenon or an outright hoax perpetrated by scientists, environmentalists and their political allies. Pricing carbon is a nonstarter for most Republicans in Washington, who are trying to block President Obama’s climate regulations. An effort to create a nationwide cap-and-trade system died in 2010, in part due to opposition from oil- and coal-producing states.

“The domestic politics for the U.S. companies is different from what it is for the Europeans,” said Raymond Kopp, a senior fellow with the Resources for the Future think tank. “Right now, this is a difficult conversation for them to have domestically.”

And that’s assuming they want to have it all.

Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson has expressed support for a tax on greenhouse gas emissions but hasn’t pushed for it. The company formerly supported groups that questioned the scientific consensus on warming. Billionaires Charles and David Koch, whose wealth comes largely from oil and gas, have poured money into the campaigns of political candidates who oppose action on climate change. The Koch brothers have announced plans to spend $889 million during the 2016 election cycle.

California policies

And while Chevron’s home base lies in the only U.S. state with a full-scale cap-and-trade program — California — the company has often criticized the state’s climate-change policies, warning they could push energy prices higher.

Last month’s statement from the European oil CEOs, in contrast, brands climate change “a critical challenge for our world” that must be tackled immediately. The executives urge governments that haven’t already done so to start putting a price on carbon.

The statement, issued as an open letter to two top international climate negotiators, is notably silent on whether the companies prefer a tax on greenhouse gas emissions or a cap-and-trade system. Such systems — including California’s, which began in 2012 — force businesses to buy credits for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit.

The CEOs make clear, however, that they eventually want a worldwide price.

“Pricing carbon obviously adds a cost to our production and our products,” they write. “But carbon pricing policy frameworks will contribute to provide our businesses and their many stakeholders with a clear roadmap for future investment, a level playing field for all energy sources across geographies and a clear role in securing a more sustainable future.”

Natural gas strategy

The CEOs also hint at how their companies could thrive in such a future, by producing more natural gas and investing in renewable technology. Indeed, the companies already have extensive natural gas holdings, analysts noted.

“If you’re on the board of directors of an oil company, you have to be asking yourself, ‘What’s our future in a low-carbon world?’ And with this letter, I think you see these companies trying to figure it out,” said Ralph Cavanagh, energy program co-director for the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental group.

Chevron and Exxon have also invested heavily in natural gas, which when burned in power plants produces roughly half the greenhouse gas emissions of coal. Regulations limiting emissions, including the Obama administration’s effort to cut emissions from power plants, could help them.

“I can’t imagine that Exxon or Chevron, which are companies that would benefit from a shift to natural gas, would be privately opposed to the Clean Power Plan,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, director of the energy and sustainability program at UC Davis.

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    Grant Cooke: Big Oil’s endgame has begun

    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 first of three parts.  Read part part two by CLICKING HERE and part three by CLICKING HERE and .  – RS]

    Grant Cooke: Big Oil’s endgame has begun

    September 28, 2014 by Grant Cooke

    Editor’s note: First of three parts to run on consecutive Sundays.

    P1010301“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,” said Sheikh Ahmed-Zaki Yamani. The former Saudi oil minister is arguably the world’s foremost expert on the oil industry. In 2000, he introduced this extraordinary observation with an even more prescient one — to wit, “Thirty years from now there will be a huge amount of oil — and no buyers. Oil will be left in the ground,” he told the UK’s Telegraph.

    A decade and half later, we are coming to the end of Big Oil, and the domination of the world’s geopolitics and economy by the fossil-fuel interests for the past century. Correspondingly, the carbon- and nuclear-powered centralized utility industry that was started by Thomas Edison in 1882 when he flipped the switch at the Pearl Street substation in Manhattan has begun its decline.

    Over the years, Big Oil and its related industries and supporters have disrupted the way humans manage their affairs, and wreaked havoc on our environmentally fragile planet. Today, the loss of a major section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet from global warming caused by excessive carbon-generated heat appears unstoppable.

    That hasn’t stopped the dead-enders from fighting on. In February, North Carolina’s Republican governor turned his administration into a joke with a clumsy attempt to help Duke Energy, the nation’s largest utility, avoid cleaning up 39,000 tons of coal ash that was spilled into the Dan River. The Duke ash coal spill came a month after 10,000 gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanols, or MCHM, spilled into West Virginia’s Elk River, ruining the water supply of Charleston, the state’s capital. A second chemical, a mix of polyglycol ethers known as PPH, was part of the leak, the company involved, Freedom Industries, told federal regulators. The company uses the chemicals to wash coal prior to shipping for coal-powered utilities. More than 300,000 West Virginians were impacted and several hundred residents were hospitalized with various symptoms.

    Closer to home in Northern California, we had the massive 2012 Chevron fire that sent toxic chemicals billowing into the air and caused respiratory problems for 15,000 Richmond residents. Chevron admitted to negligence as the cause of the fire. In 2010, PG&E’s neglect led to the horrific San Bruno gas pipeline explosion that killed eight, injured 66 and destroyed 38 homes. The California Public Utilities Commission fined PG&E $2.5 billion, the largest fine in U.S. utility history. PG&E now faces federal charges that it violated the U.S. Pipeline Safety Act.

    For several years, U.S. oil oligarchs Charles and David Koch have made a mockery of American democracy by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into smear campaigns against scientists, environmentalists and liberal politicians. More than any others in recent memory, the Koch brothers have manage to replace consensus and compromise with vitriol and dysfunction in U.S. politics.

    Oil madness is not a strictly U.S. disease. Vladimir Putin, channeling the ghost of Joseph Stalin, recently swept up a huge chunk of Ukraine and threatened an astonished Europe that if it opposed him, the result would be a shutdown of the Russian natural gas that many see as vital to the EU’s economic recovery. And the world seems to have grown accustomed to Mideast mayhem, where the biggest transfer of wealth in world history — from the oil users to the oil suppliers — has led to social and political chaos, repression, suffering and death.

    * * *

    EVEN AFTER A CENTURY OF SUPPORT, the U.S. federal government grants the oil industry, the world’s richest, with about $4 billion a year in tax subsidies, and Exxon Mobil Corporation (the largest grossing company in the world) minimizes the taxes it pays by using 20 wholly owned subsidiaries in the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Cayman Islands to legally shelter cash from its operations in Angola, Azerbaijan and Abu Dhabi.

    The coal industry is also favored with tax breaks, public land loopholes and subsidized railroads. A 2013 Harvard University study concluded that the total real economic costs from U.S. coal amounted to $345.3 billion, adding close to 17.8 cents per kilowatt hour to the cost of electricity generated from coal. Called “external costs, or externalities,” these costs are borne by the U.S. public.

    Now the carbon-based industries, which include coal, oil, natural gas and related industries like centralized utilities and transmission line companies, are coming to the end of their socially useful cycle. Their resources are aging beyond economic justification and their business models are too inflexible to adapt to a new industrial era with a different energy model.

    This new era of energy generation, storage and sharing is upon us. We call it the Green Industrial Revolution, and it is emerging as the next significant political, social and economic era in world history. As it takes hold, it will result in a complete restructuring of the way energy is generated, supplied and used. It will be a revolutionary time of extraordinary potential and opportunity, with remarkable innovations in science and energy that will lead to new ones in sustainable, smart and carbon-less economies powered by nonpolluting technologies like wind, geothermal, wave, river and solar, with their advanced technologies like flywheels, regenerative and maglev systems, and hydrogen fuel cells.

    Community-based and on-site renewable energy generation will replace massive fossil fuel and nuclear-powered central plant utilities. New advances in efficient recyclable batteries and fuel cells will store energy for when it is needed. Smart green grids will share electricity effortlessly. Additive manufacturing will minimize wasted resources, and new sciences like nanotechnology will have a profound impact on business, careers, human health and the global economy.

    This new era encompasses changes in technology, economics, business, manufacturing, jobs and consumer lifestyles. The transition will be as complete as when the steam-driven First Industrial Revolution gave way to the fossil fuel-driven Second Industrial Revolution. It is a monumental shift that is already under way and spreading rapidly around the world.

    Industrial revolutions occur when a new energy source intersects with a new form of communication. In the First Industrial Revolution, steam was the energy source and the printing press provided the means to disseminate new ideas that accelerated scientific breakthroughs and the adoption of inventions. In the Second Industrial Revolution, the fossil fuel-driven internal combustion engine was the power source and analog communication provided the channel for new ideas and technologies.

    Today, the digital age, with Internet access to almost all scientific knowledge and Facebook and Twitter-led social media, has intersected with renewable energy generation, hydrogen storage and smart grids. While vast fortunes were made in the fossil-fuel era by extracting natural resources and despoiling the environment, wealth in this new green era will come from digital and IT breakthroughs, intelligent machines and a host of environmentally sensitive inventions.

    Many factors are coming together to hasten the Green Industrial Revolution. Putin’s march on Ukraine shocked Europe and stirred the region’s efforts to generate more renewable energy and cut ties to fossil fuel. Forty percent of Scotland’s domestic electricity generation comes from renewable sources, mostly tidal and wind. Denmark and other Nordic nations intend to generate 100 percent of their energy by mid-century. Germany’s Energiewende (Energy Transformation), which aims to power the country almost entirely on renewables by 2050, is accelerating.

    Almost daily, scientists in university and national research laboratories are making breakthroughs in developing non-carbon energy sources. The chemistry department of the University of California-Davis recently figured out how to make carbon-less gasoline from straw. Advancements in nanotechnology are making electricity usage much more efficient.

    China is considering a ban on new cars that run on fossil fuels, and major cities across the globe have limited the use of autos in downtown areas. Several nations — and California, too — are creating hydrogen highways. Norway, Sweden and Germany have them; California will open its hydrogen highway in 2016. Daimler, Honda, Chevrolet and most other major automobile manufacturers have hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars ready to go.

    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, of which this column is excerpted.

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      NRDC sues Koch brothers over handling of petcoke; Chicago adopts new regulations

      Repost from The Huffington Post

      Koch Brothers Face Lawsuit Over Chicago’s Toxic Black Dust

      The Huffington Post  | by  Joseph Erbentraut  |  05/02/2014

      Environmentalists are planning to take billionaires Charles and David Koch to court, alleging the brothers’ companies are responsible for polluting Chicago’s Southeast Side with the black, thick dust known as petroleum coke — or petcoke, a byproduct of the oil refining process.

      ThinkProgress reported this week that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Southeast Environmental Task Force (SETF) have given a 90-day notice of an intention to sue Koch-owned companies including KCBX Terminals over the pollution associated with their petcoke storage facilities located along the Calumet River in a low-income, partially industrial Chicago community.

      In a press release, the groups said the lawsuit stems from neighbors complaining that the dust spewing from the facilities’ large, uncovered petcoke piles has polluted the river, “invaded” their homes and blackened area skies.

      “People are complaining about finding dust from these sites inside their homes,” Peggy Salazar, SETF executive director, said in a statement. “Black dust is coating their houses and probably their lungs. This has to stop. And hopefully this suit will achieve that.”

      (Read NRDC’s full notice letter.)

      On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council approved regulations that ban new petcoke storage facilities from opening up in the city, but do not require the shutdown of the three sites currently in operation.

      The Chicago Tribune reports the storage sites will be newly required to report how much petcoke and coal they ship through the city on a quarterly basis. They will also need to enclose their piles within two years and cannot expand their operations.

      Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office described the ordinance as the toughest petcoke regulations in the nation, but environmental groups pushing for an outright ban disagree.

      It is the city’s ultimate obligation to protect its residents,” Salazar said Wednesday, according to the Northwest Indiana Times. “We don’t believe they did that here.”

      Most of the petcoke in Chicago is shipped in from the nearby BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, which is tripling their output of the dangerous dust after expanding their facility. Petcoke can cause health problems like coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, in addition to aggravating existing respiratory conditions like asthma, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

      Facing similar concerns voiced by residents living near petcoke facilities there, Detroit moved to ban petcoke last year.

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