Earth Matters: Surprise! Big Oil’s words about how green they’re getting aren’t matched by deeds


Sunset on Big Oil liars cannot come soon enough.

By now I’m certain that many readers have heard about how the oil companies are again doing what they’ve always done when it comes to climate change: lying. Three years ago InfluenceMap, an independent research group, produced Big Oil’s Real Agenda on Climate Change. As Steve Hanley at CleanTechnica writes, “it revealed the world’s major fossil fuel companies have spent $1 billion since the Paris climate accords were signed on lobbying against climate change policies.”

Before moving on, let me take a moment of personal privilege to say that I am sick, sick, sick, sick, sick of all the lying. Politicians and plutocrats and corporate patsies—all of them. I am literally too old for more of this constant rain of lies. The truth is out there. And not on the X-Files. It’s in the global heatwaves, apocalyptic flooding, droughts, and in the frightening, ongoing demolition of our ocean environment. But instead of acknowledging this truth with demonstrated conviction, we get the same old, same old from these companies: pretense, promises, and greenwashing PR. Running out of time, people. Too late for lies.

But, sadly, infuriatingly, InfluenceMap has revealed in its updated 2019 report that despite all the we’re-so-down-green advertising and promises about quickly cutting emissions, five super-giant oil companies—BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergie—have shown what they truly plan by where they’re putting their money. For them, it’s not too late for lies. But let the authors tell it:

Extensive analysis finds that the five supermajors [BP, Shell, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergies] are spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on a systematic strategy to portray themselves as positive and proactive on the climate change emergency. This is found to be inconsistent with the companies’ plans for capital investment in their business. It is also found to be misaligned from the detailed policy engagement activities of the companies and their industry associations on climate change. […]

InfluenceMap’s analysis suggests that the companies are spending around $750 million each year cumulatively on climate-related communication activities

In contrast, only 12% of the five companies’ 2022 capital expenditure (CAPEX) is forecasted to be dedicated to ‘low carbon’ activities. Additionally, none of the supermajors’ forecasted oil production appears in line with the International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Emissions by 2050 (as of Q4 2021), with several companies planning to increase oil and gas production between 2021 and 2026.

At the same time, InfluenceMap found that none of the companies have aligned their climate policy engagement activities with the goals of the Paris Agreement, and retain a dense and global network of industry associations globally, which are highly active in their opposition to Paris Aligned climate policies

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There is a lot more at the InfluenceMap site, where you can download the entire report. 

The two media sites linked below also covered this story. 

Grist: Oil companies say they’re going green, but their investments tell another story

The Guardian: Oil and gas firms’ green investments fail to match promise of publicity

ECO-VIDEO

ECO-RESOURCES

Here’s an update from The Washington Post’s ongoing tracking of Biden’s environmental actions.
As Biden unwinds dozens of Trump’s energy and environmental policies, he’s forging his own.

From David Roberts’ exceptional Volts substack: Diving further into the Inflation Reduction Act: Part One and Diving further into the Inflation Reduction Act: Part Two

From Treehugger: Wilderness Act: Summary, Impact, and Current Status. The Wilderness Act protects 111 million acres of land in the United States. The total for all 50 states is 2.34 billion acres.

Carbon should cost 3.6 times more than U.S. price, study says

In a study published earlier this month at Nature, researchers at Resources for the Future, an environmental nonprofit, concluded that the U.S. social cost of carbon should be $185 per ton instead of the current $51 a ton. That was the figure first used by the Obama administration, but the Trump administration reduced it to $7 a ton. 

The first foray into this highly disputed approach to measuring the damaging effects to society of carbon emissions and using this for setting policy came in the early 1990s. Since then we’ve seen a great deal of new data on the impacts these emissions have on ecosystem, biodiversity, and human health. The researchers took that into account in creating their new model. 

Said Kevin Rennert, a study author and director of the federal climate policy initiative at Resources for the Future: “Our results suggest that we are vastly underestimating the harm from each additional ton of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And the implication is that the benefits of government policies and other actions that reduce global warming pollution are greater than has been estimated.”

Federal officials began applying the $51-a-ton cost estimate to new regulations more than a decade ago in the wake of a successful lawsuit over the government not taking greenhouse gas emissions into account when setting vehicle mileage standards. Republicans have fought the use of estimated future climate damage to make policy, and officials in 23 states sued the Biden administration on the grounds that its use of the social cost of carbon was illegal. But they lost at the district court level on the grounds the states could show no harm to them from this. They are now at the appeal level.

As extreme weather events that scientists say wouldn’t be as bad without climate change now occur on a daily basis somewhere on the planet, It’s clear that whatever the social costs are now, they will rise as damage from climate change worsens.

You can read more details here.

ECOPINION

Heather McTeer Toney, former EPA director for Southeast (Region 4) .
Heather McTeer Toney

Q&A: How White Flight and Environmental Injustice Led to the Jackson, Mississippi Water Crisis. James Bruggers at Inside Climate News interviews Heather McTeer Toney, the former regional EPA administrator. She talks about the factors—climate change among them—that led to the water-system failure in Mississippi’s capital city. Toney: “Climate change is what is happening to us right now. It’s like smoke that can find its way into any single crevice that exists. It’s going to be able to get through and expand, and we’re going to see very quickly where we have some vulnerabilities and opportunities to really improve. So as we think about infrastructure, which is the critical issue that is being dealt with right now in Jackson, Mississippi, that is one of the ways where we will see vulnerabilities pop up, particularly in low-income and marginalized communities around the country. And it’s happening not just in the United States, but around the world. […]”

Europe’s Energy Crisis. By Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect. Last Friday’s New York Times report, lamenting the European move to more regulated energy markets, included this howler: “The question, though, is whether Europe is heading toward a cumbersome, state-controlled system that might be a turnoff for investors.” In fact, energy is no free market, and deregulation has been a notable failure. Oil prices are manipulated by OPEC and by the refiners’ cartel; oil production in the U.S. has long been subsidized by tax preferences; gas prices are subject to geopolitical manipulation; and the shift to renewables has been promoted by feed-in tariffs, renewable portfolio standards, and tax subsidies. The sooner we get over the illusion that energy operates by market forces, the better. In a few years, Europeans may appreciate that Putin did them a favor. They are not likely to feel that way this winter.

PAPALOTE, TEXAS - JUNE 15: Wind turbines are shown on June 15, 2021 in Papalote, Texas. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which controls approximately 90 percent of the power in Texas, has requested that residents conserve power through Friday as temperatures surge in the state.  (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Wind turbines in Papalote, Texas.

Texas could lead the energy transition. State leaders are determined to fight it. By Doug Lewin at Renewable Energy World. The state of Texas is in an energy transition. Some prefer to call it an expansion, but make no mistake, it’s happening and we’re in it. We can try to hold it back, but it would be like trying to hold back the tide. We’ll lose. Or we can lead it. Shape it. Create high-paying jobs from it.  Profit from it. And hell, maybe even help maintain a habitable Earth. Right now, Texas’ political leadership seems hell-bent on choosing a quixotic battle against economic gravity—and Texans will suffer for it.

Carbon Capture: The Fossil Fuel Industry’s False Climate Solution. A massive buildout of carbon capture facilities is not the way to avert the climate crisis. By Earthjustice. The Inflation Reduction Act is the biggest climate investment in history, and it’s a game changer for our transition to clean energy. But it also includes tax credits for carbon capture technologies that threaten to extend the life of fossil fuels and perpetuate the harms of pollution in overburdened communities. Here’s why carbon capture is largely a false solution – and what we can do to stop it.

ECO-quote

“Our assessment provides strong scientific evidence for urgent action to mitigate climate change. We show that even the Paris Agreement goal of limiting warming to well below 2°C, and preferably 1.5°C, is not safe as 1.5°C and above risks crossing multiple tipping points (CTPs). Crossing these CTPs can generate positive feedbacks that increase the likelihood of crossing other CTPs.” —From the summary of a new Science-published report on tipping points beyond which changes in a part of the climate system become self-perpetuating

HALF A DOZEN OTHER THINGS TO READ (OR LISTEN TO)

Switching to renewable energy could save trillions – study. By Jonah Fisher at the BBC News. One of the key complaints of critics who oppose serious action to address climate change say that a switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources will be too expensive in spite of ever-lower costs of solar and wind. A study published in the journal Joule calculates that, on the contrary, worldwide switching to renewable energy could save $12 trillion by 2050. “Even if you’re a climate denier, you should be on board with what we’re advocating,” said Prof Doyne Farmer from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School. “Our central conclusion is that we should go full speed ahead with the green energy transition because it’s going to save us money.” 

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 27: Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) listens during a hearing of the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol on July 27, 2021 at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, DC. Members of law enforcement testified about the attack by supporters of former President Donald Trump on the U.S. Capitol. According to authorities, about 140 police officers were injured when they were trampled, had objects thrown at them, and sprayed with chemical irritants during the insurrection.(Photo by Brendan Smialowski-Pool/Getty Images)
Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland

Raskin eyes bill to protect activists from Big Oil lawsuits. By Lesley Clark at E&E Daily. A rise by oil companies and their allies in filing “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPP, to silence critics has spurred Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland to propose legislation to discourage the practice. The lawsuits typically go after environmental activists, including pipeline protesters and communities seeking compensation for climate damages. “Wealthy and powerful corporate entities are dragging citizens and public interest opponents through meritless but protracted and extremely costly litigation,” said Raskin, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. One study found that 12 oil majors brought at least 24 SLAPP lawsuits against environmental groups between 2015 and 2018. Although 32 states have anti-SLAPP laws, 18 do not. Raskin cited the nearly $1 billion lawsuit that Energy Transfer LP filed against opponents of the company’s Dakota Access pipeline as an example of an effort to dissuade future protesters. A federal judge in 2019 dismissed claims that Greenpeace and other groups had engaged in racketeering and defamation in an attempt to block the $3.8 billion oil pipeline, but Raskin said the groups were still subjected to “staggering” legal bills and emotional costs

How much meat can we eat—sustainably? By Bob Holmes at Knowable. Raising Livestock today accounts for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions—more than all the cars and trucks on the road—and the use of 40% of the world’s arable land. The United Nations forecasts that people will be eating 14% more meat by 2030. Many activists say giving up meat is the only option. But the latest research indicates that the world could raise enough beef, pork, and chicken so that everyone on the planet could eat a modest portion of meat a few times a week — and do it sustainably. This would require a major adjustment in how we now raise livestock In the wealthy West, the typical diet would include considerably less meat than we eat today..

Thwaites Glacier (shown) poses the greatest near-term threat to sea level rise, scientists say. New data suggest that a buttressing ice shelf helping to slow the Florida-sized glacier’s slide into the sea may collapse within five years.
Thwaites Glacier (shown) poses the greatest near-term threat to sea level rise, scientists say. New data suggest that a buttressing ice shelf helping to slow the Florida-sized glacier’s slide into the sea may collapse within five years.

A new study finds that 1.5 degrees of warming would cause irreversible changes. By Blanca Begert at Grist. Climate tipping points kick in when changes become self-perpetuating and often irreversible. For example, studies have shown how Amazonian tree loss creates a feedback loop that wrecks the forest’s ability to sustain itself, which means additional dieback. Other examples include permafrost thaw, melting glaciers, and coral reef death. A new study published in Science warns that the world may have already crossed five such tipping points with the 1.1 degrees Celsius (33.98 Fahrenheit) of warming we’ve already seen—beginning of the collapse of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, tropical coral reef die off, and thawing of Northern permafrost. At 1.5 degrees C, the tipping points go from possible to likely, and others become possible, including the melting of mountain glaciers, changes to the West African monsoon that will impact the Sahel region of Africa, dieback of Northern boreal forests, and collapse of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation—an ocean current which underpins the Gulf Stream—also become possible at 1.5 degrees. That’s bad enough. But if all nations’ current pledges under the Paris Agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions were to be met, warming by century’s end would increase by 2.4 C (4.3 F), with catastrophic impacts. And those pledges aren’t being met except in small nations.

Left out to dry: Wildlife threatened by Colorado River basin water crisis. By Tara Lohan at The Revelator. Flows on the Colorado River have dropped by 20% of the century-long average, leaving the Lake Mead and Lake Powell reservoirs it feeds at historically low levels. About 40 million people rely on the 1,400-mile-long river, including in many of the West’s biggest cities. It also provides irrigation water for 5 million acres. But long before those cities and industrial farms came into being, the river supported diverse mountain and desert ecosystems abundant with animals and plants. Nowadays, many of those species are vulnerable to cumulative pressures from human development, drought, and climate warming. But they rarely get a mention in media and policy discussions of the region’s growing water crisis. “The story continues to be about water supply and water management, and how to continue to drain the river to support the growth economy,” says Gary Wockner, executive director of the nonprofit Save the Colorado.

African American men of the CCC in 1935 in Cook County, Minnestota.
African Americans in the Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Cook County, Minnesota, 1935. The Army administered the corps, and its racial segregation policies transferred easily to the CCC. Ultimately, a quarter-million Black men served in 150 camps of the corps even though little effort was made to actively recruit them.

 A piece about the original corps and how racism affected its implementation and operation can be found here.

The Civilian Climate Corps was dropped from the climate bill. Now what? By Maxine Joselow at The Washington Post. Early in his term, President Biden signed an executive order to create a Civilian Climate Corps aimed at hiring tens of thousands of young people to engage in climate-friendly work to, among other things, restore wetlands, install solar panels, and remove invasive species. The program was designed to resemble the Civilian Conservation Corps, the New Deal-era initiative that put millions of young men to work planting trees, constructing trails, and making improvements to the nation’s public infrastructure. Congressional Democrats included $30 billion for the CCC in the Build Back Better Act. But it was dropped in the Inflation Reduction Act even though Sen. Bernie Sanders tried to reinstate it. In an interview Wednesday, Sanders said he would “keep fighting” for it. “The Civilian Climate Corps is not only a tremendous opportunity to transform our energy system, but equally important, it allows the young people of this country to roll up their sleeves and get to work on energy efficiency and sustainable energy,” he said. Recent polling found that 83% of Americans support the idea. 

ECOLINKS

 Methane ‘Loophole’ Shows Risk of Gaming New US Climate Bill • In photos: A summer of drought and fire  How One Rust Belt College is Transforming Its Local Food System  Facing Budget Shortfalls, These Schools Are Turning to the Sun • Scientists chart 45 million years of Antarctic temperature change • The bewildering vote in Chile that rejected a new progressive constitution • Why Aren’t Federal Agencies Enforcing Pesticide Rules That Protect Farmworkers? 



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