Tag Archives: Oil Change International

Iran agreement could spell end to limits on U.S. oil imports

Repost from Minuteman News, New Haven, CT

Iran agreement could spell end to limits on U.S. oil imports

By Emily Schwartz Greco,  July 29, 2015

What a relief. In exchange for Iran taking steps to guarantee that it can’t build nuclear weapons, the sanctions that have choked off its access to world markets will end without a single shot.

Instead of celebrating this diplomatic breakthrough, conservative lawmakers are plotting to scuttle the pact. And despite their opposition, some Republicans are milking this accord for a pet project: ending all limits on U.S. crude sales.

“Any deal that lifts sanctions on Iranian oil will disadvantage American companies unless we lift the antiquated ban on our own oil exports,” Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski declared a few weeks back.

It’s an enticing argument. Why should Washington help Iran freely sell its oil while denying the U.S. industry the same liberty?

Well, the ban is already punctured. The United States, which imports 7 million barrels a day of crude, also exports half a million barrels of it every 24 hours.

And most of that oil goes straight to Canada by rail or gets hauled to ports by trains after getting extracted from North Dakota’s landlocked Bakken fields.

Remember that oil train that derailed two years ago in the Quebec town of Lac Megantic, unleashing an inferno that burned for four days and killed 47 people? It was ferrying exported Bakken crude.

Smaller accidents are happening too. Most recently, an oil train derailed near the tiny town of Culbertson, Montana, spilling thousands of gallons of oil from North Dakota.

Ramping up exports would only boost the chances of a major disaster, Oil Change International Executive Director Steve Kretzmann says.

That’s why the restrictions, imposed by Congress during Gerald Ford’s presidency to boost energy independence, should remain unless the government creates better safeguards.

Besides, Iranian oil sales won’t begin bouncing back until early next year at the soonest as diplomats must first verify compliance with nuclear obligations. But there’s no doubt that more crude will eventually gush from that Middle Eastern country.

Prior to the 1979 revolution that brought a theocratic government to power, Iran was exporting 6 million barrels a day — quadruple current levels. By 2008, amid lighter sanctions, it was only shipping 3 million barrels a day overseas. Seven years later, that figure has been halved again.

Iran’s got between 30 and 37 million barrels stored and ready to sell before it even re-starts wells that were shut down when sanctions tightened. As Iran sits atop some 158 billion barrels of oil, the world’s fourth-largest reserves, its potential is huge.

Will American companies, which can freely export value-added oil products like gasoline, lose out if they can’t ship more crude overseas? Not really.

Money spent beefing up infrastructure could be wasted if Iran dislodges new markets. Nixing export restrictions could boost production by half a million barrels daily, but many North American wells won’t make financial sense if the Iran gusher adds to the global glut responsible for slashing oil prices over the past 12 months.

Goldman Sachs analysts expect U.S. oil prices to hover around today’s $50-a-barrel mark for at least another year. If they’re right, many North Dakota and Texas fracking sites won’t be viable anyway.

And why are prices slumping? Domestic output has nearly doubled under President Barack Obama’s leadership to 9.7 million barrels a day. The United States now drills more oil than Saudi Arabia despite the White House’s calls for climate action.

While the leaky ban does chip away at U.S. prices, it’s not as if the Obama years have been a bust for oilmen.

And regardless of whether the industry gets the freedom Murkowski seeks, the United States, Iran, and the rest of the world must figure out how to get by on less oil.

Columnist Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies.
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    U.S. East Coast is key crude-by-rail destination

    Repost from Oil Change International
    [Editor:  Excellent 8-page report.  Interesting for folks on both coasts, and critical for those along the rails in the Midwest and Eastern states!  TAKE NOTE: Does this report describe our future on the west coast?  – RS]

    U.S. East Coast is key crude-by-rail destination

    By Lorne Stockman, July 22, 2015

    Cover_ OCI-East Coast CBR-July 2015_FINALAn examination of crude-by-rail data shows that the U.S. east coast has become one of the busiest regional destinations for hazardous crude-by-rail traffic. Oil Change International used publicly available Department of Energy (EIA) data as well as subscription data from Genscape to examine the growth of crude-by-rail to one of the most densely populated areas of the United States.

    Key Findings:

    • An average of 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude was delivered by rail to the east coast region in 2014.
    • Around 50% of all crude-by-rail is unloaded in the wider east coast region (PADD 1).
    • Around 50% of the crude oil input to six east coast refineries is supplied by rail.
    • Over 80% of the crude oil delivered by rail to the region comes from North Dakota (Bakken crude).
    • Canada is the next biggest source of crude-by- rail for the region at around 12%.
    • Five key terminals account for 73% of the unloading capacity and around 65% of the throughput of the region’s crude-by-rail terminals.

    This briefing provides additional information on crude-by-rail to the east coast. For further information on crude-by-rail see www.priceofoil/rail

    Download Full Report

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      PETITION: Kick Big Polluters out of Climate Policy

      Repost from Oil Change International

      Help kick Big Oil out of climate policy!

      Sign the petition to the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change:

      “We call on you to take immediate action to protect COP21 and all future negotiations from the influence of big polluters. Given the fossil fuel industry’s years of interference intended to block progress, push false solutions, and continue the disastrous status quo, the time has come to stop treating big polluters as legitimate “stakeholders” and to remove them from climate policymaking.”

      Today, we are facing the prospect of the destruction of life as we know it and irreversible damage to our planet due to climate change. Scientists are telling us with ever more urgency that we must act quickly to stop extracting fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the world’s largest polluters have prevented progress on bold climate action for far too long.

      We call on the Parties to the UNFCCC to protect the UN climate talks and climate policymaking around the world from the influence of big polluters. The world is looking to the next round of negotiations – in Paris this December – for decisive action on climate. This is a pivotal moment to create real solutions. We need a strong outcome from the Paris talks in order to seize the momentum of a growing global movement, and to urge leaders to take bolder action to address the climate crisis.

      But the fossil fuel industry and other transnational corporations that have a vested interest in stopping progress continue to delay, weaken, and block climate policy at every level. From the World Coal Association hosting a summit on “clean coal” around COP19 to Shell aggressively lobbying in the European Union for weak renewable energy goals while promoting gas – these big polluters are peddling false solutions to protect their profits while driving the climate crisis closer to the brink.

      A decade ago, the international community took on another behemoth industry – Big Tobacco – and created a precedent-setting treaty mechanism that removed the tobacco industry from public health policy. This can happen again here.

      Corporate Accountability International will deliver this message and the list of signatures at the climate talks in Bonn, Germany, the first week of June. We will do another delivery by the end of COP21 in Paris this December.

      Participating organizations:

      350.org
      Amazon Watch
      Chesapeake Climate Action Network
      Climate Action Network International
      Corporate Accountability International
      CREDO Action
      Daily Kos
      Environmental Action
      Food & Water Watch
      Federation of Young European Greens
      Forecast the Facts
      Greenpeace USA
      League of Conservation Voters
      Oil Change International
      People for the American Way
      Rainforest Action Network
      RH Reality Check
      SumOfUs
      The Natural History Museum
      CC: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres
      UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
      Outgoing COP20 President Manuel Pulgar-Vidal
      Incoming COP21 President Laurent Fabius

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        US taxpayers subsidizing world’s biggest fossil fuel companies

        Repost from The Guardian

        US taxpayers subsidising world’s biggest fossil fuel companies

        Shell, ExxonMobil and Marathon Petroleum got subsidises granted by politicians who received significant campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, Guardian investigation reveals
        By Damian Carrington and Harry Davies, 12 May 2015 07.00 EDT
        Marathon Petroleum refinery in Canton, Ohio, got a job subsidy scheme worth $78m when it started in 2011. Photograph: PR

        The world’s biggest and most profitable fossil fuel companies are receiving huge and rising subsidies from US taxpayers, a practice slammed as absurd by a presidential candidate given the threat of climate change.

        A Guardian investigation of three specific projects, run by Shell, ExxonMobil and Marathon Petroleum, has revealed that the subsidises were all granted by politicians who received significant campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry.

        The Guardian has found that:

        • A proposed Shell petrochemical refinery in Pennsylvania is in line for $1.6bn (£1bn) in state subsidy, according to a deal struck in 2012 when the company made an annual profit of $26.8bn.
        • ExxonMobil’s upgrades to its Baton Rouge refinery in Louisiana are benefitting from $119m of state subsidy, with the support starting in 2011, when the company made a $41bn profit.
        • A jobs subsidy scheme worth $78m to Marathon Petroleum in Ohio began in 2011, when the company made $2.4bn in profit.

        “At a time when scientists tell us we need to reduce carbon pollution to prevent catastrophic climate change, it is absurd to provide massive taxpayer subsidies that pad fossil-fuel companies’ already enormous profits,” said senator Bernie Sanders, who announced on 30 April he is running for president.

        Sanders, with representative Keith Ellison, recently proposed an End Polluter Welfare Act, which they say would cut $135bn of US subsidies for fossil fuel companies over the next decade. “Between 2010 and 2014, the oil, coal, gas, utility, and natural resource extraction industries spent $1.8bn on lobbying, much of it in defence of these giveaways,” according to Sanders and Ellison.

        In April, the president of the World Bank called for the subsidies to be scrapped immediately as poorer nations were feeling “the boot of climate change on their neck”. Globally in 2013, the most recent figures available,the coal, oil and gas industries benefited from subsidies of $550bn, four times those given to renewable energy.

        “Subsidies to fossil fuel companies are completely inappropriate in this day and age,” said Stephen Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International, an NGO that analyses the costs of fossil fuels. OCI found in 2014 that US taxpayers were subsidising fossil fuel exploration and production alone by $21bn a year. In 2009, President Barack Obama called on the G20 to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies but since then US federal subsidies have risen by 45%.

        “Climate science is clear that the vast majority of existing reserves will have to stay in the ground,” Kretzmann said. “Yet our government spends many tens of billions of our tax dollars – every year – making it more profitable for the fossil fuel industry to produce more.”

        Tax credits, defined as a subsidy by the World Trade Organisation, are a key route of support for the fossil fuel industry. Using the subsidy tracker tool created by the Good Jobs First group, the Guardian examined some of the biggest subsidies for specific projects.

        Shell’s proposed $4bn plant in Pennsylvania is set to benefit from tax credits of $66m a year for 25 years. Shell has bought the site and has 10 supply contracts in place lasting up to 20 years, including from fracking companies extracting shale gas in the Marcellus shale field. The deal was struck by the then Republican governor, Tom Corbett, who received over $1m in campaign donations from the oil and gas industry. According to Guardian analysis of data compiled by Common Cause Pennsylvania, Shell have spent $1.2m on lobbying in Pennsylvania since 2011.

        A Shell spokesman said: “Shell supports and endorses incentive programmes provided by state and local authorities that improve the business climate for capital investment, economic expansion and job growth. Shell would not have access to these incentive programmes without the support and approval from the representative state and local jurisdictions.”

        ExxonMobil’s Baton Rouge refinery is the second-largest in the US. Since 2011, it has been benefitting from exemptions from industrial taxes, worth $118.9m over 10 years, according to the Good Jobs First database. The Republican governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal has expressed his pride in attracting investment from ExxonMobil. In state election campaigns between 2003 and 2013, he received 231 contributions from oil and gas companies and executives totalling $1,019,777, according to a list compiled by environmental groups.

        A spokesman for ExxonMobil said: “ExxonMobil will not respond to Guardian inquiries because of its lack of objectivity on climate change reporting demonstrated by its campaign against companies that provide energy necessary for modern life, including newspapers.”

        The Guardian is running a campaign asking the world’s biggest health charities, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, to sell their fossil fuel investments on the basis that it is misguided to invest in companies dedicated to finding more oil, gas and coal when current reserves are already several times greater than can be safely burned. Many philanthropic organisations have already divested from fossil fuels, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund whose wealth derives from Standard Oil, which went on to become ExxonMobil.

        In Ohio, Marathon Petroleum is benefitting from a 15-year tax credit for retaining 1,650 jobs and a 10-year tax credit for creating 100 new jobs. The subsidy is worth $78.5m, according to the Good Jobs First database. “I think Marathon always wanted to be here,” Republican governor John Kasich said in 2011. “All we’re doing is helping them.” In 2011, Kasich was named as the top recipient of oil and gas donations in Ohio, having received $213, 519. The same year Kasich appointed Marathon Petroleum’s CEO to the board of Jobs Ohio, a semi-private group “in charge of the economic growth in the state of Ohio”.

        A spokesman for Marathon Petroleum said: “The tax credit recognises the enormous contribution we make to the Ohio economy through the taxes we pay and the well-paying jobs we maintain. We have more than doubled the 100 new jobs we committed to create.” The spokesman said the company paid billions of dollars in income and other taxes every year across the US.

        “Big oil, gas, and coal have huge influence on politicians and governments and they get that influence the old fashioned way – they buy it,” said Kretzmann. “Through campaign finance, lobbying, advertising and superpac spending, the industry has many ways to influence candidates and government officials seeking re-election.”

        He said fossil fuel subsidies were endemic in the US: “Every single well, pipeline, refinery, coal and gas plant in the country is heavily subsidised. Big Fossil’s lobbyists have done their jobs well for the last century.”

        Ben Schreiber, at Friends of the Earth US, said. “There is a vibrant discussion about the best way to keep fossil fuels in the ground – from carbon taxation to divestment – but ending state and federal corporate welfare for polluters is one of the easiest places to start.”

        Schreiber also defended subsidies for renewable energy: “Fossil fuels are a mature technology while renewable energy is nascent and still developing. It makes sense to subsidise technologies that are going to help solve climate change, but not to do the same for those that are causing the problem.”

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