Category Archives: Global warming

As California pumps out oil, Gov. Brown says world must cut back

Repost from The San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate)
[Editor:  The San Francisco Chronicle ran three (!) stories on the Vatican Conference on climate change, including two rather stiff challenges to California Governor Jerry Brown.  See below for one.  See also: Editorial-A climate pilgrimage, …and Mayor touts city’s green vehicles at pope’s event.  – RS]

As California pumps out oil, Gov. Brown says world must cut back

By David R. Baker, July 21, 2015 4:02 pm
Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his speech during the conference at the Vatican. Photo: Gregorio Borgia, Associated Press
Gov. Jerry Brown delivers his speech during the conference at the Vatican. Photo: Gregorio Borgia, Associated Press (1st of 10 images – click for more).

One-third of the world’s oil must stay in the ground if humanity hopes to avoid the worst effects of global warming, Gov. Jerry Brown told a climate conference at the Vatican Tuesday.

“We are going to have to set a clear goal,” Brown told a crowd of mayors and public officials from around the world. “And that goal is almost unimaginable. One-third of the oil that we know exists as reserves can never be taken out of the ground. Fifty percent of the gas can never be used and over 90 percent of the coal. Now, that is a revolution.”

For an American politician of Brown’s stature, it was a rare statement. Even those who acknowledge the threat of climate change prefer not to address the idea that tapping all of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves would trigger catastrophic levels of warming, a notion widely embraced in the environmental movement.

But Brown’s comment was particularly noteworthy for another reason.

California, for all its efforts to fight climate change, remains America’s third-largest oil producing state, out-pumped only by Texas and North Dakota. And while Brown wants to cut California’s use of oil by 50 percent in the next 15 years, he has generally supported oil production within the state’s borders.

Brown has for years refused to ban hydraulic fracturing, preferring to regulate it instead. He has argued that finding a way to tap the oil trapped within California’s Monterey Shale formation could produce an economic boom for the state. His stance has infuriated many environmentalists, even as they laud his efforts to boost renewable power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

So Brown’s comments, at the Vatican global symposium on climate change and modern slavery, raised a few eyebrows back home.

“We agree, fossil fuels need to stay in the ground,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the environmental groups pushing for a fracking ban. “That’s why Gov. Brown can’t be a climate leader and expand fossil fuel production in his own state. Climate leaders do not frack.”

Brown urged the gathered mayors to push for climate action within their own countries, saying they needed to “light a fire” under their national leaders. And he took aim at opponents of such action, saying they were “bamboozling” the public with a well-financed disinformation campaign.

“We have very powerful opposition that, in at least my country, spends billions on trying to keep from office people such as yourselves and elect troglodytes and other deniers of the obvious science,” Brown said.

2015 on pace to be hottest year on record

Repost from SFGate

Federal scientists say 2015 on pace to be globe’s warmest

By Kurtis Alexander, June 18, 2015 4:23 pm
Global temperatures in May hit a record high, helping put 2015 on pace to be the hottest in history. Photo: National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration
Global temperatures in May hit a record high, helping put 2015 on pace to be the hottest in history. Photo: National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration

This year is on track to be the world’s hottest on record, federal scientists said Thursday, continuing a warming trend that even Pope Francis called worrisome in a remarkable 184-page papal letter.

Three of the world’s foremost weather agencies have reported the warmest start to any year since they began keeping records, and this week’s climate report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found yet another chart-topping month for the globe.

May was a whopping 1.6 degrees above the 20th century average, the agency reported. California experienced average temperatures in May, but other places in the U.S., including Alaska and parts of the Northeast, made history for heat.

Still, California headed into June with a record temperature for the first five months of the year, 5.1 degrees above the 20th century average and 0.1 degrees warmer than the previous high, last year.

“We don’t do predictions here, but I would not be surprised if 2015 ends up the hottest year on record,” said Deke Arndt, a climate monitoring branch chief at the NOAA. “We’re almost halfway through the year and have a sizable lead on the pack.”

Last year currently stands as the planet’s warmest.

Climate scientists attribute the long-term trend of rising temperatures largely to human-caused bumps in greenhouse gases. The El Niño pattern that emerged earlier this year, though, is helping push the mercury to the extreme, they said. El Niños typically move heat from the ocean surface of the tropical Pacific into the atmosphere.

The upside of the El Niño is that it could bring rain to the West Coast, at least if it’s a strong system. Federal scientists are not only giving the El Niño a more than 80 percent chance of hanging on through winter — the rainy season in California — but saying that the event may be moderate or strong.

“This is starting to look like a typical El Niño footprint, something we didn’t see last year at this time,” said Steve Baxter, a forecaster for the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

The past four years in California have seen below-average precipitation, and rain is desperately needed. The warm temperatures that have come with 2015, however, could mean less snow, which is critical in filling reservoirs.

Pope Francis, in an unorthodox move for the Catholic Church, weighed in on global warming this week. He tied fossil fuels to the problem and prompted a cool response from many Republican presidential candidates.

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.