Nov 29 2011

Friend of the Environment

Report highlights Obama’s broken environmental promises

Posted by Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent, The Guardian

Monday 28 November 2011 17.37 EST

The steady stream of oil and coal industry lobbyists to Oira did not end when Bush left office – arguably it turned into a flood. Environmental regulations made up only 10% of Oira business in Bush’s time, but 36% of the office’s business was meeting with outside lobbyists.

Under Obama, Oira has dedicated more than half of its meetings, 51%, to discussing pending environmental regulations with industry lobbyists, the report says.

And for industry the meetings paid off – about as much under Obama as under Bush. Following those meetings with outsiders, Oira changed 84% of EPA rules during the Bush era. Depending on how you calculate it, the change rate was even higher under Obama. Oira changed 81% of environmental rules after meetings with lobbyists. But the change rate rises to 85% once all Oira decisions on environmental regulations are factored in.

Is there any chance that Obama is unaware of what Oira is up to? Rena Steinzor, the law professor at the University of Maryland who wrote the report, doesn’t think so. She notes that Sunstein is a longtime friend of Obama, who has for years advocated against government regulations.

Obama will have to own those decisions – and the failure to live up to his election promises of 2008 to run a government that made decisions based on science and expertise, not political calculus.

“To us this is a sharp departure from what we were promised when this president was elected,” Steinzor said. “From sound practice what we really want is for the experts to be making decisions at government agencies – the toxicologists, the pediatricians, the geologists. That’s what modern government is supposed to be about, not having the decisions made by an office that is not accountable for what it does.”

But it’s not just Cass Sunstein, It’s Aust(eri)an Goolsbee as well.

Goolsbee Says U.S. Opponents of TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline Are Naive

By Sean B. Pasternak, Bloomberg News

Nov 28, 2011 2:12 PM ET

“It’s a bit na├»ve to think the tar sands would not be developed if they don’t build that pipeline,” said Goolsbee (former chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers), speaking today in Toronto at the Economic Club of Canada. “Eventually, it’s going to be built. It may go to the Pacific, it may go through Nebraska, but it’s going to be built somewhere.”

Oh, who’s being naive Kate?

The stranded oil sands: A worst-case scenario

Claudia Cattaneo, Financial Post

Oct 31, 2011 9:39 AM ET

“Everybody in the industry is thinking about this,” said Bob Dunbar, president of Strategy West Inc., an oil sands consultancy based in Calgary. “Keystone XL is not the only solution, but it is a very elegant solution and it really would have an impact on the industry if it doesn’t proceed in a timely way.”

Industry growth plans would also be in doubt. Aggressive expansions may be revisited if there is no way to sell the oil. According to a new study by international petroleum consultancy Purvin & Gertz Inc., existing pipelines to U.S. markets could run out of space by 2013 to 2016, depending on how quickly oil sands production grows. In fact, after looking at all pipeline options, the consultancy concluded that additional capacity would be needed to accommodate oil sands growth by 2017 to 2019, even if Keystone XL is in operation.

Keystone XL: Game over?

raypierre, RealClimate

2 November 2011

(O)il-in-place is not the same as economically recoverable oil. That’s a moving target, as oil prices, production prices and technology evolve. At present, it is generally figured that only 10% of the oil-in-place is economically recoverable.

Currently, most of the energy used in production comes from natural gas (hence the push for a pipeline to pump Alaskan gas to Canada).

A knock-on effect of oil sands development is that it drives up demand for natural gas, displacing its use in electricity generation and making it more likely coal will be burned for such purposes.

The evil twin of the Keystone XL oil pipeline

By Michael Byers, Salon

Saturday, Oct 15, 2011 11:59 AM

The U.S. State Department has accepted assertions that the production of heavy oil will increase regardless of whether Keystone XL is built, because the Northern Gateway pipeline would bring oil for shipment to China.

Canadians know better. Although the Canadian government supports Northern Gateway, and the government-appointed National Energy Board can be expected to approve, the same cannot be said of the First Nations (i.e. indigenous peoples) living along its path.

The Northern Gateway pipeline faces decades of litigation over indigenous rights before construction could begin. As former Canadian environment minister Jim Prentice told an Enbridge shareholder meeting in May 2011: “The reality on the ground is that the constitutional and legal position of the First Nations is very strong.”

In the 1970s, opposition from First Nations postponed a proposed natural gas pipeline in the Northwest Territories, initially for 10 years. Four decades later, the line still has not been built. In November 2010, Murray Edwards, the vice-chairman of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., said securing the necessary consensus on the Northern Gateway project would be “just as challenging.” He described the proposal as “very, very difficult.”

Fully 80 percent of British Columbians oppose Northern Gateway, and that public opinion has translated into political opposition. All four opposition parties in the Canadian Parliament – who together won 60 percent of the vote in the last federal election – are opposed to Northern Gateway and support an oil tanker ban.

Another proposal, to expand the capacity of a 50-year-old conventional oil pipeline from Alberta to Vancouver and use it for tar sands oil, is likewise dead.

The current pipeline, named “Trans Mountain” and owned by Kinder Morgan, ends at a terminal in Vancouver’s upper harbor. The oil must be offloaded onto tankers there, then shipped through the “Second Narrows,” a shallow strait that is subject to strong tidal currents, and confined by the piers of a railway bridge. The Canadian Coast Guard has assigned the highest possible navigational hazard rating to the bridge.

(h/t Think Progress)

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  1. ek hornbeck

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