At the Republic Report, Lee Fang details how the Koch Industries petrochemical empire is involved in the boom in natural gas hydrofracturing. The right-wing Koch brothers have developed a vertical empire designed to extract wealth from every point in the hydrocarbon lifecycle. A small fraction of their profits is funneled into corrupting our political system, in order to prevent government from protecting society against the costs of the waste products.
The October 2011 issue of Discovery, the in-house Koch Industries newsletter, explains how the Koch Industries empire is profiting from the “really exciting” fracking boom:
– 1. Koch Pipeline is partnering with NuStar Energy to develop a dormant pipeline from Pettus, TX to refineries in Corpus Christi. The pipeline will transport natural gas from fracking sites in southern Texas. Koch Pipeline is a Koch Industries subsidiary.
– 2. Flint Hills Resources recently purchased a small craft pier and wharf in Ingleside, TX to store shipments of natural gas from fracking operations in the Eagle Ford shale formation. Flint Hills Resources is a Koch Industries subsidiary.
– 3. Koch Supply & Trading, a Koch Industries company that deals with commodity trading and financial products, is “already trading Eagle Ford crude” to help supply Koch companies and other customers, according to a Koch Industries newsletter.
– 4. Koch Chemical Technology Group is designing a processing facility near Yoakum, TX to help process natural gas fracked in southern Texas. Koch Chemical is a subsidiary of Koch Industries.
– 5. John Zink, a Koch Industries company, is providing flares for a natural gas processing plant in Helena to service the fracking industry.
– 6. Georgia Pacific produces resins used for chemicals used to prop open micro-fractures, an important process for fracking to occur. GP is a Koch Industries subsidiary.
– 7. Koch Fertilizer, a Koch Industries company, has tapped into increased natural gas production from fracking to develop fertilizer.
From Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney to the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity, the Koch political network has been furiously attempting to block any oversight or regulation of the pollution and risks associated with fracking, no matter the danger to the American public.
Yesterday, the Romney campaign announced that oil-shale billionaire Harold Hamm will lead the candidate’s energy policy, joining a team that already includes coal lobbyist Jim Talent and tar-sands lobbyist David Wilkins. Hamm is the founder and chairman of Continental Resources, which has dominated oil and gas boom in North Dakota. The Wall Street Journal reports that Hamm generated “almost all” of his $12 billion wealth in Continental in the past three years. The billionaire, ranking at No. 36 on Forbes list of richest Americans, stood at Romney’s side while the candidate gave a pro-drilling speech in North Dakota Thursday afternoon.
With evidence that speculation had driven a rise in fuel prices last year, President Obama announced the creation of the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group, which was tasked with investigating oil speculation. The task force, led by the Justice Department, was designed to prevent manipulation of the oil market and price-gouging at the gas pump.
Nearly a year after its creation, though, the task force has met “only a handful of times” and has yet to issue any public reports, McClatchy reports:
The Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group has met only four or five times since its creation last April 21, and most of those meetings came at the time of its inception. Back then, Obama promised that the group would “root out any cases of fraud or manipulation” and noted that its scope would include the “role of traders and speculators.”
Oil prices have begun rising again like they did before the task force was formed. A spokesperson for the Justice Department, which is leading the task force, told McClatchy that “the working group is monitoring the situation, and if we find any evidence of criminal behavior or other misconduct we will respond immediately.” The task force is also assisting the Federal Trade Commission in an investigation of American oil refiners and “conducting other, nonpublic investigations” into the oil and gas industry.
A wide range of experts pinpointed oil speculation as the cause of both the 2008 and 2010 spikes in oil prices, with evidence strong enough that Obama felt the need to create such a task force in the first place. Oil prices are again rising rapidly despite the lowest demand since 1997, and experts are again pointing to “speculative money that’s flowed into gasoline futures contracts since the beginning of the year, mostly from hedge funds and large money managers.”
As McClatchy noted, the U.S. currently has “ample oil and gasoline inventories,” suggesting that “oil and gasoline prices are disconnected from supply-and-demand market fundamentals” and are rising due to speculation. The only question now is whether the task force created to investigate such irregularities is committed to doing anything about it.
I’m pleased to let you know that my book, Suck It Up: How capturing carbon from the air can help solve the climate crisis, is being published today as an Amazon Kindle Single. Please buy the ebook here for just $1.99.
The book reflects two years of reporting and my best thinking about three topics that matter: climate change, geoengineering and a technology called direct air capture of CO2. It explains why we’ve made so little progress (none, actually) in dealing with the climate threat, and how that might change. Part of the answer is to look for ways to recycle and reuse CO2.
I’m going to print the introduction to the book below, but first a word about the publishing process. As the newspapers, magazines and book publishers that traditionally support long-form journalism are struggling, exciting new outlets like blogs and ebooks are opening up. I’m the publisher as well as the author of Suck It Up, with a big assist from Amazon, which has selected the book as a Kindle Single.
The Kindle Single allows writers to tell stories that are longer than a magazine article and shorter than a book. Suck It Up is about 17,000 words long, the equivalent of 60 to 70 double spaced typewritten pages. It’s intended to be read in one or two sittings, and it’s priced so the ideas in it will spread. If you don’t own a Kindle, you can read the book on your smart phone, iPad or laptop. Just download the free Kindle software here.
I’d like to sell lots of copies of Suck It Up not just because I think it’s a good read about an important topic, but because I want to make the ebook business model work. It’s an exciting new platform for in-depth reporting.
So, please read the intro, check out the book and if you like it, help me spread the word through social media or the old-fashioned way–tell a friend about the book.
This book may depress some people. It shouldn’t. To the contrary, I’d like to stimulate a conversation about new ways to think about global warming, the most daunting problem facing humanity. To start, we need to face a grim reality: Governments, businesses and environmentalists have failed miserably to deal with the threat of climate change.
This June will bring the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There, officials negotiated a treaty—it’s known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—in which they agreed to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Some 192 countries, including the United States and China, ratified the convention. Since then, annual global emissions have grown by nearly 45%. Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 are rising steadily. The risks posed by climate change grow every day.
In the U.S., climate regulation appeared tantalizingly close just a few years ago. More than a dozen FORTUNE 500 companies, including GE, Ford, Shell and Duke Energy, joined with influential environmental groups to form the U.S. Climate Action Partnership to press Congress to “enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.” In 2008, presidential candidates Obama and McCain supported legislation to cap carbon emissions. But President Obama made the economy and health care his priorities, and the Republicans morphed into implacable opponents of climate regulation. A weak cap-and-trade bill barely cleared the U.S. House of Representatives and never came to a vote in the Senate.
What’s maddening about the lack of progress is that we know what to do about global warming–or at least we think we do. Back in 2004, physicist Robert Socolow and ecologist Stephen Pacala, both of Princeton, wrote an influential paper in Science: They argued that energy efficiency, nuclear power, low-carbon fuels, avoided deforestation and other current technologies that they called “climate wedges” could be deployed right away to stabilize emissions.
“Humanity,” they wrote, “already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half-century.”
Since then, Socolow is among those who have been dismayed by the resistance to climate action.
“I know no one who predicted that the climate change message would be rejected on a scale that it is now,” he says. “Scientists and environmentalists interested in getting climate taken seriously have failed beyond their wildest imaginations…We are losing the argument with the general public, big time.”
This no accident. But the reasons why climate regulation has failed are not widely understood. Yes, the recession made it hard for Congress to pass a costly scheme to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Yes, fossil-fuel interests spent a fortune opposing cap-and-trade. Yes, partisan media like Fox News gave a platform to climate skeptics and the mainstream press found it hard to sound an alarm about an invisible, sl0w-moving threat.
But the obstacles that stand in the way of a climate regulation are bigger than any of that.
One is the need for a global solution. Had Congress acted to put a price on carbon, as the European Union has, that would have been a good start–but only a start. CO2 emitted anywhere spreads everywhere. To curb greenhouse gas emissions, Canada will have to stop extracting oil from the tar sands of Alberta. Brazil will have to decline to exploit rich oil deposits off its Atlantic Coast. China will have to stop building coal plants. Governments all over will have to support nuclear power plants, allow wind turbines to spoil some ocean views, and put solar arrays in beautiful desert places. We’ll all have to spend more money for energy, because it’s expensive to capture emissions from coal plants or build the batteries for electric cars.
A second fundamental obstacle is this: The costs of mitigating emissions will be felt immediately but the benefits — essentially, reducing the risk of climate disasters — won’t be felt for years. Governments find it hard, for obvious reasons, to impose costs on people today to generate uncertain benefits in the future.
Finally, there’s the thorny question of how rich and poor countries will share the costs of financing a transition to a low-carbon economy.
This is why climate change is the most difficult problem mankind has ever faced.
“Climate change is the biggest collective action problem, probably, in human history,” says Scott Barrett, the Lenfest-Earth Institute Professor of Natural Resource Economics at Columbia University. “It always was, in theory. Now, after 20 years of action, we’ve seen that it is in practice.”
See what I mean about depressing?
This book offers a way out. That’s why I wrote it. I’ve been writing about the social and environmental impact of business for years. I’ve seen how markets can solve big, complicated and seemingly insurmountable problems. Who could have anticipated the benefits generated by electricity, air travel or the Internet? Who could have predicted that globalization would lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in China and India? Markets work fast. Governments are sluggish.
That’s why we need to explore new approaches to global warming. One is geoengineering: Planetary-scale actions designed to counter the climate effects of greenhouse gas emissions.
In particular, we ought to take a close look at a set of emerging technologies that are designed to capture carbon dioxide from the air. Backers of these technologies, which are sometimes called direct air capture of CO2, say, with good reason, that they shouldn’t be thought of as geoengineering. They’re more akin to recycling.
Why, they ask, can’t we find ways ways to capture and recycle CO2 the way we now collect and recycle newspapers or aluminum cans? Suck it up–and then make it into something useful. As it happens, scientists already know how to pull CO2 out of the air. But the conventional wisdom holds that it’s costly and impractical to do so. In the pages ahead, you’ll meet some smart people — including Bill Gates — who are trying to prove the conventional wisdom wrong.
My first sustained exposure to geoengineering and air capture came in February, 2010, when I was invited to a private meeting of the trustees of the Environmental Defense Fund, one of America’s most respected environmental groups, at the Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito, CA. Steve Hamburg, EDF’s chief scientist, brought together scientists, economists and policy experts to talk about what it might mean for scientists to invent the equivalent of a global thermostat. “Part of my job is to bring new ideas and issues to the organization,” Hamburg told me later. Even if they sound a little crazy at first.
One of the speakers that day was David Keith, a physicist who was then teaching at the University of Calgary and has since joined the faculty at Harvard. Keith is a brilliant scientist, an entrepreneur and a strong advocate of government-backed research into geoengineering. He has a way of disarming critics by acknowledging the obvious problems with the idea of deliberately manipulating the earth’s climate.
Geoengineering, Keith said that day, “is like chemotherapy. It’s something nobody should like.”
But, as his listeners immediately understood, we treat cancer patients with chemotherapy because it’s better than the alternative. Someday, Keith said, we may turn to geoengineering for the same reason: Like it or not, in the event of a climate emergency, geoengineering could be best option we have to head off a global catastrophe.
Keith, for his part, has become so convinced of the need for new climate solutions that, with the financial backing of Bill Gates, among others, he has started a for-profit company to build machines to remove carbon dioxide from the air.
Geoengineering raises thorny questions. Will it work? What might be the side effects? Who gets to decide when to deploy it? Who controls the global thermostat? What if Russia and Canada decide it’s fine to let the earth get a bit warmer, but India wants it cooler? Some scientists have mused about “geoengineering wars.”
I needed to know more. What I learned surprised me, and it will surprise you, too.
You can download the rest of the book here.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) told a student at a Fort Lee high school this morning that “gay marriage” is not about extending rights to gay and lesbian Americans and insisted that it would “change the way we’ve governed our society”:
Q: His, chris christie, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Recently you passed an anti-bullying law, which I really am appreciative for, because bullying should not be allowed in the state of New Jersey, so i really thank you for that. However, one of the main reasons why kids even do get bullied in school is whether or not they’re homosexual. And recently there has been a bill to allow gay rights in the state of New Jersey. Can you tell me what was your decision to veto the bill, because I heard that you had vetoed the bill.
CHRISTIE: I did veto a bill on gay marriage, not on gay rights. And gay rights are protected and protected aggressively in New Jersey. But listen, this is something I feel strongly about. I think marriage is between one man and one woman, but I also know that people have very different opinions about that in our state. So what I’ve said to folks after vetoing the bill, let’s put it on the ballot. If a majority of people in New Jersey want to have same-sex marriage, then vote for it and I’ll be governed by it. But I don’t think that’s a decision that should be made by 121 people in Trenton alone. It’s a major change in the way we’ve governed our society.
Since Christie vetoed the measure, support for marriage equality has increased in the state. Fifty-seven percent of residents siad they would approve of a same-sex marriage law, but 67 percent supported Christie’s idea to decide the issue through a referendum.