Trump ‘Completely Rethinks’ U.S. Energy Policy By Doubling Down On Fossil Fuels
By Ryan Koronowski, August 8, 2016
On Monday in Detroit, Donald Trump sought to reset his campaign again with a speech about the economy to begin “a great conversation about economic renewal for America,” portraying Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as “a nominee of yesterday.”
Trump aides told Politico prior to the speech that Trump economic vision also involved “a complete rethinking of our energy policy.”
What does this “complete rethinking” look like?
More fossil fuels. And less environmental regulation. A Trump administration would follow the same rhetorical stance on energy as the RNC and the Romney campaign, and the Bush administration’s policy playbook.
The 2016 Republican presidential nominee cited “energy reform” as a priority midway through the speech, attacking “the Obama-Clinton war on coal” and boasting how his own plan to cut regulations on the fossil fuel industry would create jobs.
“I am going to cut regulations massively,” Trump said. “Massively.”
Beyond vague anti-regulatory rhetoric, Trump’s speech cited studies from the Koch-funded Institute for Energy Research, the Exxon-funded Heritage Foundation, and the American Petroleum Institute, all purporting to prove the economic ruin wreaked by the Obama administration’s environmental actions.
Further detail was provided by a Trump campaign email sent to the press which outlined “policy highlights” from Trump’s economic vision:
While Trump may not be able to accomplish all of his stated energy agenda, these policy highlights are essentially the same as the energy plan he outlined in May. His vision lines up almost perfectly with that of the fossil fuel industry.
“Donald Trump’s energy proposals read like a gift registry for the fossil fuel and financial industries,” Greenpeace executive director Annie Leonard said in a statement. “If a U.S. president would attempt to enact any of these proposals it would not only undo the the progress millions of people around the world have achieved on climate change, it would set this country on a path to economic ruin and environmental devastation.”
Trump would “immediately cancel” President Obama’s executive actions, singling out the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the United States rule. Trump doesn’t mention that the Climate Action Plan’s carbon rule would lower electricity bills and the Waters of the U.S. rule actually helps protect small farmers against pollution from big agribusiness.
He promises to “save the coal industry” — though international coal market dynamics are to blame and U.S. coal jobs are not coming back even with a President Trump.
Bringing back the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf are goals that have been on the conservative drawing board for decades — hardly something that belongs in a completely rethought economic vision.
Cancelling the Paris Climate Agreement and defunding U.S. contributions to United Nations climate programs would drag the United States and the world back decades.
“Lift restrictions on American energy,” to Trump, means fossil fuels and not renewable energy sources like solar and wind, which are growing faster than fossil fuels and getting cheaper at a truly astonishing rate. Trump, however, said last week that renewable energy “is not working so good.”
What the billionaire did not mention on Monday is how much climate change is projected to hurt the global economy: the United States will take a 36 percent GDP hit by the end of the century if its leaders allow it to suffer an unmitigated climate, according to research from ICF International and NextGen Climate Action. Globally, that number jumps to $44 trillion by 2060, according to Citigroup.
Trump called Clinton “the candidate of the past” while his own campaign was “the campaign of the future.”
Greenpeace Protesters Blocking Oil Ship Rappel Down From Portland Bridge
By M. Alex Johnson, Jul 30 2015, 11:14 pm ET
Greenpeace protesters dangling from a Portland, Oregon, bridge lowered themselves to the Willamette River on Thursday, clearing the way for an oil company icebreaker to continue on its way to the Pacific Ocean and then the Alaskan coast.
The 13 protesters had been hanging from the St. Johns Bridge for almost 40 hours in an attempt to block Royal Dutch Shell’s icebreaker MSV Fennica — which stopped in Portland for repairs Saturday — from returning to sea.
After almost two days into the protest, members of the Portland Fire Bureau’s technical rescue rope team built their own rope system Thursday crossing the bridge, Lt. Rich Tyler said Thursday night.
Then, “we ended up lowering ourselves down to where the protesters were,” he said.
The first two protesters the officers reached agreed to lower themselves to a Multnomah County sheriff’s rescue boat in the river below.
The next ones, however, refused, “so we went down to where the ropes were connected and anchored, attached our ropes to their ropes … and lowered them down” without their cooperation, Tyler said.
Once the first three protesters had been removed and the Fennica had enough room to pass — it sailed through right under them — “the rest came down voluntarily,” he said.
Meanwhile, “kayaktivists” in the river tried to block the icebreaker’s path, but crews hooked their kayaks to jet skis and pulled them out of the way. The ship cleared the bridge about 6 p.m. (9 p.m. ET).
The ship’s next confrontation could come in Astoria, Oregon, where it was expected to arrive after 11 p.m. (2 a.m. Friday ET). The Coast Guard said it was prepared to enforce a 500-yard safety zone around the Fennica as it made its way through the Willamette and Columbia rivers Thursday night and Friday.
The protest was a costly one for Greenpeace, which was fined $2,500 for every hour the ship was stalled — eventually reaching $17,500 — after a U.S. district judge in Alaska found the organization in civil contempt.
And police carted off an undetermined number of protesters and other people in plastic handcuffs, with charges to be determined, probably Friday, police said.
But Mary Nicol, senior Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace USA, said it was worth it.
“We found that the blockade was successful,” Nicol told NBC station KGW of Portland. “Climate change does present a real threat to everyone globally.”
Royal Dutch Shell, which the U.S. Interior Department granted the final two permits it needs to explore for oil in the Arctic, said in a statement Thursday night that with the Fennica on its way to Alaska, “the Transocean Polar Pioneer commenced initial drilling operations” immediately in the Chukchi Sea.
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales said the protest made for a “hard day,” because he opposes drilling in the Arctic but had law-enforcement responsibilities as mayor to carry out.
“It’s time to move from protest to action, to changing the laws,” Hales said Thursday night. “After all, that’s the point of the protest.”
By The Oregonian/OregonLive, July 30, 2015 at 8:38 PM, updated July 31, 2015 at 6:33 AM
Just before 6 p.m. Thursday, the controversial icebreaker MSV Fennica threaded through a hole cut by law enforcement in the wall of protesters suspended from the St. Johns Bridge.
For Royal Dutch Shell, the company that will use the ship in oil-drilling operations in the Arctic, the exit marked the end of a week of protests on the Portland bridge and outside the Swan Island dry dock where a gash in the ship’s hull was repaired.
For the 13 Greenpeace USA activists on the bridge and dozens of others in kayaks and canoes on the Willamette River, it marked a disappointing end to a high-risk, high-reward protest.
“It was tough to see the boat go through there, but every second counts,” protester Razz Gormley said Thursday evening. “I consider this a victory.”
Gormley, 42, of Boulder, Colorado, climbed over the railing of the St. Johns Bridge just after 1 a.m. Wednesday and spent the next 40 hours dangling about 100 feet from the bridge’s roadway and 100 feet above the Willamette River.
The 13 suspended protesters and the minders who watched over them from the St. Johns Bridge deck hoped to prevent the Fennica from departing for the Arctic. Their goal was to delay Shell’s ship – hopefully pushing back the difficult work of drilling for oil in the Arctic long enough that the company would lose a year of work. In the time before things thawed next year, protesters hoped for political change in Washington, D.C.
As Gormley was greeted as a hero after rappelling to the water Thursday evening, he explained that even though the protesters lost the battle, they delayed the boat for hours.
Earlier Thursday, a first game of chicken was won by the protesters.
The Fennica headed downriver from Swan Island at about 6 a.m. Within about 300 yards of the St. Johns Bridge, it stopped. Dozens of kayaks and canoes pinched the river channel just in front of the 13 suspended protesters, each linked with arcing ropes between them and with a long colorful streamer trailing behind in the morning wind.
About two hours later, the ship was back at Swan Island.
Just after 2 p.m., officers from the Coast Guard, Portland police, the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office and other Portland-area law enforcement agencies closed the St. Johns Bridge to all traffic and began to direct the river-going protesters toward the shore.
Within two hours, the Coast Guard had closed the Willamette River to all traffic between Swan Island and the Columbia River. They used boat hooks to move the smaller craft from the waterway.
Portland police Sgt. Pete Simpson and Portland fire Lt. Rich Tyler said police and fire teams closed the bridge when each agency had the resources in place to conduct a safe technical 205-foot rope rescue.
A police Special Emergency Response Team officer rappelled over the bridge and cut the lines connecting the protesters dangling from the bridge. Then Portland Fire Bureau technical rescue teams moved in, with some firefighters going over the bridge’s edge and asking the protesters to voluntarily ease themselves down to waiting boats.
The first two protesters came down on their own but the third wouldn’t communicate. Firefighters connected two rope lines to his lines, removed his anchor and lowered him on their attached lines to a boat.
Their work opened a gap just wide enough for the Fennica’s safe passage.
“It was frustrating and heartbreaking,” Philip Fensterer of North Portland said minutes after the ship cleared the bridge and the last protesters.
As the ship moved toward the Columbia River — and, ultimately, the Pacific Ocean — the remaining protesters quietly slipped off their perches. Each was greeted as a hero on the Willamette’s banks by crowds of protesters whose feelings had traveled during the day from exhilaration to anger to resignation to exhausted thankfulness.
Police initially detained protesters but by late Thursday night said they only made one arrest: 24-year-old Robert Jonah Majure, who police say locked himself to a railroad bridge and is accused of first-degree criminal trespass.
“Everybody’s hearts are broken,” Greenpeace USA spokeswoman Cassady Sharp said Thursday evening. “They’re just getting amazing love and support. That’s what makes us feel encouraged after today.”
— Laura Frazier, Molly Young, Maxine Bernstein and Stuart Tomlinson contributed to this report.
Are We Past the Point of No Return on Climate Change?
Greens give us five years to cut back emissions
By Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss, 04/11/2015
Dear EarthTalk: What is the best way to measure how close we are to the dreaded “point of no return” with climate change? In other words, when do we think we will have gone too far? — David Johnston, via EarthTalk.org
While we may not yet have reached the “point of no return” — when no amount of cutbacks on greenhouse gas emissions will save us from potentially catastrophic global warming — climate scientists warn we may be getting awfully close. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution a century ago, the average global temperature has risen some 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Most climatologists agree that, while the warming to date is already causing environmental problems, another 0.4 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature, representing a global average atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) of 450 parts per million (ppm), could set in motion unprecedented changes in global climate and a significant increase in the severity of natural disasters—and as such could represent the dreaded point of no return.
Currently the atmospheric concentration of CO2 (the leading greenhouse gas) is approximately 398.55 parts per million (ppm). According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the federal scientific agency tasked with monitoring the health of our oceans and atmosphere, the current average annual rate of increase of 1.92 ppm means we could reach the point of no return by 2042.
Environmental leaders point out that this doesn’t give us much time to turn the tide. Greenpeace, a leading environmental advocacy group, says we have until around 2020 to significantly cut back on greenhouse gas output around the world—to the tune of a five percent annual reduction in emissions overall—if we are to avoid so-called “runaway” climate change. “The world is fast approaching a ‘point of no return’ beyond which extremely dangerous climate change impacts can become unavoidable,” reports the group. “Within this time period, we will have to radically change our approach to energy production and consumption.”
In a recent lecture at Georgetown University, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim reported that whether we are able to cut emissions enough to prevent catastrophe likely depends on the policies of the world’s largest economies and the widespread adoption of so-called carbon pricing systems (such as emissions trading plans and carbon taxes). International negotiators meeting in Paris next December are already working to hammer out an agreement mandating that governments adopt these types of systems to facilitate emissions reductions. “A price on carbon is the single most important thing we have to get out of a Paris agreement,” Kim stated. “It will unleash market forces.”
While carbon pricing will be key to mitigating global warming, Greenpeace adds that stemming the tide of deforestation in the world’s tropical rainforests and beyond and adapting our food systems to changing climatic conditions and increasingly limited resources will also be crucial to the health of the planet.
“Without additional mitigation, and even with adaptation, warming by the end of the 21st century will lead to high to very high risk of severe, widespread and irreversible impacts globally,” reports the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), an international group of leading climate experts convened by the United Nations to review and assess the most recent scientific, technical and socio-economic information on global warming. Indeed, there’s no time like the present to start changing our ways.
Repost from The Columbian, Vancouver, WA [Editor: Detailed background and history on successful opposition to crude by rail in Oregon and Washington state. – RS}
Portland port passes on oil-by-rail terminal
While Vancouver pursues project, other Northwest ports aren’t so sure
By Aaron Corvin, January 18, 2015
The nation’s public ports, focused on attracting industry and jobs, are largely known as agnostics when it comes to pursuing the commodities they handle.
It doesn’t matter if the shipments are toxic or nontoxic. Ports move cargoes, the story goes. They don’t pronounce moral judgments about them.
However, at least one line of business is no longer necessarily a lock, at least in the Northwest: the transportation of crude oil by rail.
Public concerns about everything from explosive oil-train derailments and crude spills to greenhouse gas emissions and the future of life on the planet are part of the reason why.
In at least two cases in Oregon and Washington, ports decided safety and environmental concerns loomed large enough for them to step back from oil transport. The Port of Portland, for example, eyed as much as $6 million in new annual revenue when it mulled siting an oil-train export terminal, documents obtained by The Columbian show. Ultimately, Oregon’s largest port scrapped the idea because of rail safety and other worries. At one point, it also reckoned that “the public does not readily differentiate between our direct contribution to climate change and actions we enable.”
In Washington, the Port of Olympia adopted a resolution raising multiple safety, environmental and economic concerns. It noted the July 6, 2013, fiery oil-train accident in Lac Megantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people. And the resolution called on the Port of Grays Harbor to rethink opening its doors to three proposed oil-by-rail transfer terminals.
To be sure, there doesn’t appear to be a groundswell of Northwest ports swearing off oil or other energy projects. Yet public concerns aren’t lost on the port industry. Eric Johnson, executive director of the Washington Public Ports Association, said he worries that putting certain commodities such as coal under “cradle-to-grave” environmental analyses sets a bad precedent that could gum up the quest for other port cargoes.
Nevertheless, he said, “we’re concerned about oil-by-rail transportation.” So much so, the association, which represents some 64 ports in Washington, will soon issue a position paper, Johnson said. It will include calls on the federal government to boost the safety of tank cars, and to upgrade oil-spill prevention and response measures. Last week, the National Transportation Safety Board said that assuring the safety of oil shipments by rail would be one of its top priorities for the year.
In Vancouver, meanwhile, critics pressure port commissioners to cancel a lease to build what would be the nation’s largest oil-by-rail transfer operation. Under the contract, Tesoro Corp., a petroleum refiner, and Savage Companies, a transportation company, want to build a terminal capable of receiving an average of 360,000 barrels of crude per day.
In addition to the political pressure, legal challenges dog the project, too. One lawsuit goes to the heart of how ports relate to their constituencies: It accuses Vancouver port commissioners of using multiple closed-door meetings to illegally exclude people from their discussions of the lease proposal.
The port denies the allegations. It has repeatedly said public safety remains its top concern. And it has said the oil terminal won’t get built unless the companies’ proposal wins state-level safety and environmental approvals.
Yet opponents see increased public attention to the safety and environmental impacts of proposed oil and coal terminals as reason to believe ports can no longer easily don the robes of an agnostic. “People are paying attention,” said Brett VandenHeuvel, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, one of three environmental groups pressing legal complaints against the Port of Vancouver. “It’s no longer simply the bottom line and the most revenue.”
In the Northwest, the Port of Portland’s decision to temporarily back off oil transport sharply contrasts with the Port of Vancouver’s choice to pursue it. Oil terminal critics use Portland’s decision to hammer the Port of Vancouver.
“I don’t see how an oil terminal is unsafe on the Oregon side of the Columbia (River) and safe on the Washington side,” VandenHeuvel said. “The striking thing is how close in proximity the ports of Portland and Vancouver are and the different approach they’ve taken on oil.”
In an email to The Columbian, Abbi Russell, a spokeswoman for the Port of Vancouver, said the port moves “forward on projects we think have merit and will bring benefit to the port and our community.” She also said the port understands that “every port needs to make decisions that make sense for them.”
‘Protests may occur’
Initially, an oil-train operation made sense to the Port of Portland, too.
It considered three sites: Terminals 4, 5 and 6. It analyzed the production of crude from the Bakken shale formation in the Midwest and from oil sands in Canada. It assessed business risks, including Kinder Morgan’s plan to repurpose an existing natural gas pipeline to connect West Texas crude to Southern California. And it contemplated the “primary specific concern among governments and community groups” over the potential for “oil spills, whether from unit trains, pipelines from the unit trains to the storage tanks to the dock, and barges.”
In May 2013 — about a month after Tesoro and Savage announced their oil terminal proposal in Vancouver — the Port of Portland signed a nondisclosure agreement with an unspecified company (the port redacted its identity in documents) to explore locating an oil export facility near Terminal 6.
Just shy of a year later, however, the port backed away.
In March 2014, it publicly announced that while it was “interested in being part of an American energy renaissance brought on by this remarkable domestic oil transformation” it did not “believe that we have sufficient answers to the important questions regarding environmental and physical safety to proceed with any type of development at this time.”
In an email to The Columbian, Kama Simonds, a spokeswoman for the Port of Portland, said “rail car safety was the primary issue” that led the port to temporarily halt its pursuit of an oil-train terminal.
But the port also worried about damaging “our hard-won positive environmental reputation,” documents show, and noted “other relationships will be affected,” including “other governments, neighborhood associations and civic groups …”
“National environmental groups will be involved — Sierra Club, Bill McKibben’s 350.org, Greenpeace,” it also noted. “Protests may occur.”
And the Port of Portland was aware of the controversy that engulfed its neighbor, remarking that “as seen with the Tesoro project at the Port of Vancouver and other energy-related projects at several other ports on the river system and along the coastline, these kinds of announcements can quickly create opposition, controversy and protests.”
Unlike the Port of Vancouver, whose three commissioners are elected by Clark County voters, the Port of Portland’s nine commissioners are appointed by Oregon’s governor and ratified by the state Senate.
The Port of Portland’s Simonds said Gov. John Kitzhaber wasn’t kept informed of the port’s initial pursuit of an oil-by-rail facility and that “we are not aware of any formal statement issued to the port from the governor’s office.”
Nowadays, she said, the port pursues “other energy-related projects” and focuses on Canadian company Pembina Pipeline’s plan to build a propane export facility near Terminal 6. Propane would be brought to the facility by train and eventually shipped overseas. The propane terminal would use the same property that the Port of Portland had considered for an oil-by-rail transfer operation. That project is also expected to face opposition from environmental groups.
Josh Thomas, a spokesman for the Port of Portland, said the port is “extremely discerning” when thinking about energy-sector opportunities. After rejecting coal and temporarily halting oil, he said, the port is now working with Pembina. “Propane has an excellent track record as a clean and safe alternative fuel,” Thomas said, “with a good climate story, displacing many dirtier traditional fuels.”
‘We are not alone’
If the Port of Portland only temporarily dropped the idea of an oil-train venture, the Port of Olympia in Washington went further.
In August 2014, the Olympia port commission voted 2-1 to approve a resolution expressing “deep concern” about the threat to “life, safety, the environment and economic development” of hauling Bakken crude by train “through our county.”
The resolution urged the Port of Grays Harbor — some 50 miles west of the Port of Olympia — to reconsider allowing three proposed oil-transfer terminals. It also called on the city of Hoquiam to reject construction permits for the projects.
The Olympia port’s resolution didn’t sit well with the executive committee of the Washington Public Ports Association. The committee shot a letter — signed by five port commissioners, including Port of Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Oliver — to Port of Olympia Commissioner George Barner. The letter chastised the resolution as meddling in another port’s lawful business. “We can only presume that if another port were to do this to the Port of Olympia that you would be rightly, and deeply, offended,” according to the letter, signed by Oliver, Port of Seattle Commissioner Tom Albro, Port of Benton Commissioner Roy Keck, Port of Everett Commissioner Troy McClelland and Port of Chelan County Commissioner JC Baldwin.
Barner and his colleague, Port of Olympia Commissioner Sue Gunn, who cast the other “yes” vote for the resolution, returned fire with a letter of their own. “As public officials, we have a responsibility to protect our citizenry and our natural resources,” they wrote in their letter addressed to Albro. “We are not alone in our concern over the passage of crude oil by rail through our community, as no less than sixteen other jurisdictions have passed similar resolutions, including the cities of Anacortes, Aberdeen, Auburn, Bellingham, Chehalis, Edmonds, Hoquiam, Kent, Mukilteo, Seattle, Spokane, Vancouver, and Westport; King and Whatcom Counties, and the Columbia River Gorge Commission.”
The jousting letters illustrate that not all ports think alike when it comes to how they do business.
Although the Port of Portland didn’t join the Port of Vancouver in seeking a share of the vast quantity of crude coming onto the nation’s rails, there appears to be no acrimony between them.
Shortly before the Port of Portland said last March that it wasn’t going after an oil-by-rail project, it gave the Port of Vancouver a heads-up about it.
“We wanted to make sure you had visibility to it prior to its release as the port is effectively making and taking a public position on crude-by-rail,” Sam Ruda, chief commercial officer for the Port of Portland, wrote in an email to Port of Vancouver CEO Todd Coleman and Chief Marketing/Sales Officer Alastair Smith.
Ruda offered to discuss the matter with them.
“I am doing this on behalf of Bill Wyatt (the Port of Portland’s executive director) who is traveling in Vietnam,” Ruda wrote in his Feb. 28, 2014 email. “At the same time, I have been very involved in this matter and am prepared to offer you perspectives and context as to why we are doing this at this time.”
Russell, the spokeswoman for the Port of Vancouver, said Coleman and Smith thanked Ruda for the heads-up when they later spoke with him. “These types of courtesy communications are common,” she said. “There was no additional discussion related to the statement.”