Sunday Roast, August 21st, 2011: Just Say “NO” to Oil

Amidst all of the beer, car, cell phone, erectile dysfunction and other pharmaceutical commercials, lately I’ve been seeing a lot more commercials for various oil and natural gas companies, touting all of the research they do or how ‘clean’ their product is. The latest push from Exxon/Mobil is for “oil sands” technology.

“Oil sands” or “tar sands” according to Wikipedia, are defined as “a type of unconventional petroleum deposit. The sands contain naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, water, and a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially “tar” due to its similar appearance, odour, and colour).” One of the largest deposits is located in Alberta, Canada, and a proposed pipeline, the Keystone XL, to run from Alberta to Texas, is currently the center of a whirlwind of controversy, involving the State Department, Congress, the EPA, ranchers and landowners, environmental activists, protests and arrests, and opposing labor unions.

Whooping Cranes

The Keystone XL, owned by the TransCanada company, starts in Alberta, Canada, home of the magnificently beautiful but endangered Whooping Crane, of which there are only about 400 left. The process by which the oil sands are accessed starts with bulldozing forests, then stripmining, then steam-heating the bitumen product. The proposed 36″ diameter pipeline would run through several states, and more importantly, would run through the Ogalalla Aquifer, the “largest underground reservoir on the planet”, part of which is located under the Sandhills of Nebraska. Existing pipelines from the Alberta oil sands facility to parts of the U.S. have already had a history of leaks, including last year’s spill into the Kalamazoo River. Why would anyone even entertain the notion that the 2000-mile-long proposed pipeline would be less likely to be plagued by the same problems? I seriously urge everyone to read the entire Incite article (also linked to above), as well as related articles in this month’s edition of the Audubon magazine, as this post cannot encompass all of the pertinent information, including the sleazy and despicable actions of TransCanada in their efforts to force affected landowners off their lands.

While billions upon billions of dollars are being poured into this proposed pipeline, estimates of U.S. jobs the project could purportedly create are only around 20,000 – a mere drop in the bucket considering the millions of unemployed right now. Are 20,000 jobs really worth the possibility of a slow leak or spill in such a varied and important range of ecosystems through which the pipeline would pass, and especially the possibility of a catastrophic leak into an underground reservoir which serves as a water supply to eight states? The Final Environmental Impact Statement is due out around now, and, once it is published, the Obama Administration has 90 days to review it and make a decision. I sincerely hope that they come to the conclusion that a mere 20,000 jobs is not worth the potentially disastrous risks, and give this proposed pipeline the thumbs down that it deserves.

This is our Sunday open thread — What do you think?

Bush’s Parting Gift To Big Oil & Last-Minute Assault On Environment

Bush wants to hand out party favors to all of Big Oil executives before he leaves office and one last brutal assault on the environment.  He is trying to justify it by saying Clinton did the same thing.  The end of this error can’t come soon enough.  What he has planned for Utah is tantamount to plundering 6 million acres for commercial exploitation.

Gale Norton has to be happy. In 2003, Ms. Norton, then President Bush’s secretary of the interior (and now a senior oil executive at Royal Dutch Shell), struck a deal with the governor of Utah that would open about 3 million pristine acres of federal land to oil and gas drilling.

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Cocaine, Sex and Oil, Oh My!

Following up on a story from yesterday, a story which seems to be getting little media attention,* oil companies cozied up to Interior Department officials and plied them with sex, alcohol, cocaine, and gifts to ensure they would get what they want.  What did they want?  Contracts!  More leased land (of which they already have more than 60 million acres and do nothing with),  Offshore leases for drilling.  Your blood.  In short, what they want is every last cent of your hard-earned income at whatever cost it takes to get it.

Lobbyists?  These are lobbyists on steroids! (Yet, another illegal substance.)

Next time you hear Drill Here! Drill Now! Pay Less! remember that this is brought to you by Big Oil and the Republicans, the same companies who have netted tens of BILLIONS of dollars in profits – on your shoulders, and the same Republican government which has given you less, and less.

* Little media attention?  Virtuallly none.  I checked the New York Times, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, and other smaller major city newspapers online – the only “coverage” was a headline link buried deep down a page.

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In Bed (literally) with ‘Big Oil’

“Drill Baby Drill!..” (Chants from the RNC…)

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From McClatchy:
Oil companies gave sex, drinks, gifts to federal overseers

Interior Department officials, while handling billions of dollars in oil and gas royalty payments, engaged in illicit sex with industry employees and accepted meals, drinks, ski junkets and golf outings from major oil companies, internal investigators reported Wednesday.

Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney’s release of three reports, which stem from a $5 million investigation dating to 2005, implicated at least 19 current and former employees of the Minerals Management Service in unethical relationships with industry, frolics that included marijuana and cocaine use.

The reports raised new concerns about the management of programs that collect $8 billion in annual revenue from offshore and onshore mineral leases. Democrats seized on the report to bolster their efforts to counter growing pressure to open up more areas to oil drilling.

“The allegations of illicit and unethical behavior detailed in the inspector general’s report are directly related to the energy debate taking place in the Congress this week,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said. “Little did we know how cozy the relationship between Big Oil and the administration’s regulators have been.

“Brandishing a copy of the inspector general’s report, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said Wednesday “It’s bad enough that the government employees who oversee offshore oil drilling are literally and figuratively in bed with Big Oil, the rest of the U.S. government doesn’t need to jump in bed with them.”

Read entire article…

From CBS News:
Sex, Lies And Big Oil?

[..] The allegations of bad behavior involve about a dozen government employees in Denver and Washington – workers who sell U.S. mineral rights to oil companies, which is one of the government’s biggest sources of revenue besides taxes.

They’re supposed to be looking out for the taxpayers’ interest.

But according to the inspector general, they rigged contracts, and engaged in illegal moonlighting, drugs, sex and gift-taking from oil company representatives.

Two reports revealed startling allegations including:

  • An employee who attended a so-called “treasure hunt” in the desert with all expenses paid by an oil producer.
  • A former supervisor who bought cocaine from a colleague, then boosted her performance award, had sex with subordinates and steered government contracts to an outside business where he also worked.

No one – from the oil companies to the workers allegedly involved – provided a response today other than to say they cooperated with the investigation, or appropriate action will be taken.[..]

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Sarah Palin’s Alaskonomics-Not Another Bush

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Sarah Palin thinks she is a better American than you because she comes from a small town, and a superior human being because she isn’t a journalist and never lived in Washington and likes to watch her kids play hockey. Although Palin praised John McCain in her acceptance speech as a man who puts the good of his country ahead of partisan politics, McCain pretty much proved the opposite with his selection of a running mate whose main asset is her ability to reignite the culture wars. So maybe Governor Palin does represent everything that is good and fine about America, as she herself maintains. But spare us, please, any talk about how she is a tough fiscal conservative.

Her holier than thou speeches are getting old. When she smiles and waves at you, Palin wants you to forget all the things you have read about her in the media or seen on the blogosphere. She doesn’t want you to think about Troopergate, or that she is all cozy with Big Oil and the coal firms that want to ravage Alaska. Instead, she wants you to envision her baking dinner for her family because, she got rid of the chef at the governor’s mansion. To show she is just like the rest of us.. I’m starting to feel ill..

Palin has continued to repeat the already exposed lie that she said, “No, thanks,” to the famous “bridge to nowhere” (McCain’s favorite example of wasteful federal spending). In fact, she said, “Yes, please,” until this project became a symbol and political albatross.

Back to reality. Of the 50 states, Alaska ranks No. 1 in taxes per resident and No. 1 in spending per resident. Its tax burden per resident is 21/2 times the national average; its spending, more than double. The trick is that Alaska’s government spends money on its own citizens and taxes the rest of us to pay for it. Although Palin, like McCain, talks about liberating ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, there is no evidence that being dependent on Alaskan oil would be any more pleasant to the pocketbook.

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Palin is Alaska’s Nightmare

Sarah Palin chaired the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission from 2003 to 2004 while also serving as Ethics Supervisor of the commission. The Commission is tasked to work in-hand with the oil industry to maximize production, administer correlative rights, and improve resource recovery. It also administers an underground injection program for enhanced oil recovery and underground disposal of oil field waste, as authorized by the EPA. As part of this injection process, oil corporations must obtain an Aquifer Exemption Order granted by the AOGCC in areas with deep groundwater supplies.

Some environmental groups such as the Cook Inletkeeper as well as First Nation People have contested these Orders, fearing they may contaminate groundwater supplies. The Commission also holds oversight of wastewater disposal known as “wastewater drain fields”; as such, oil corporations are permitted to dispose of wastewater in the soil when certain requirements are met, and reject Orders when not met. The Commission’s website lists their primary mission is “to protect the public interest in exploration and development of oil and gas resources, while ensuring conservation practices, enhancing resource recovery, and protecting the health, safety, environment, and property rights of Alaskans.” Though the Cook Inletkeeper website notes “2 billion gallons of toxic waste” are disposed of in the Cook Inlet waterway every year by oil corporations.

Palin became the governor of Alaska in 2006. If she was not aware of the report, titled Pollution and Cancer in Alaska during her time as chairperson of AOGCC, she certainly was as Governor. The report was prepared for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation in 2004-but never published. The Alaska residents and wildlife are at risk of serious health effects brought on by exposure to thousands of industrial, military toxic waste dumps and big oil corporations toxic waste, according to a report about the waste sites.

Thousands of Unknown Toxic Waste Sites

The report compiled state records on all known nuclear, mining and military waste sites in Alaska, but makes it clear that there may be thousands of other toxic waste sites that are unknown and undocumented.

The U.S. Department of Defense is responsible for “one-third of all active toxic waste sites in Alaska,” according to the report. In addition, there may be as many as 10,000 abandoned defense sites that are polluted. Complicating the problem further are the thousands of small landfills and industrial waste pits that Alaska does not inventory or monitor. So much for the pristine image we all had about Alaska.

Toxic Waste May Be Contaminating Drinking Water in Alaska

Hundreds of toxic waste dumps are spread along Alaska’s coast and adjacent to lakes, streams and freshwater aquifers, but the extent to which they may be contaminating drinking water is poorly understood. Seventy-nine percent of “rural Alaskans get their drinking water from small water systems or private wells, which are not currently monitored for toxic substances.”

“While many parts of Alaska remain pristine, many other parts of The Last Frontier are profoundly polluted,” said Jeff Ruch, PEER executive director. “Unfortunately, the state is making no effort to assess the dimensions of this multifaceted toxic legacy or the effects on its people and wildlife.”

Toxic Waste Endangering Beluga Whale and Salmon

The Palin administration has allowed Chevron to triple the amount of toxic waste it pours into the waters of Cook Inlet. It has gotten so bad that Robert Kennedy Jr. is now involved. He put out a Press Release on August 12, 2008.

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Palin: The Real Scandal-Toxic Policies

Seen from the air, Sarah Palin’s state is an environmental wonderland. From Anchorage to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, there is a vast landscape of snow-capped peaks, fjords, crystal glaciers, coastal lagoons, wide river deltas and tundra.

The guardian of this wilderness – and Governor of Alaska – has, this week, become one of the most recognizable faces in the world. But behind her beaming smile and wholesome family values is a woman aligned with the big oil and coal firms that are racing to exploit Alaska’s vast energy reserves. In the short term, that has bought her popularity at home.

It is a stance that guaranteed John McCain’s new running mate a rapturous reception at the Republican convention this week where the response to the coming energy crisis was a chant of “drill, baby, drill”.  But the woman who could soon be a 72-year-old’s heartbeat away from the United States presidency has an environmental policy so toxic it would make the incumbent, George Bush, blush.

Mr McCain has stressed he is concerned about global warming and has come out against drilling in the Arctic reserve. But, in recent weeks, he has wobbled on the issue. And environmentalists are describing Mrs Palin, who denies climate change is man-made, as “either grossly misinformed or intentionally misleading”.

She wants to start drilling. She wants to block US moves to list the polar bear as an endangered species. And she has allowed big game hunters to shoot Alaska’s bears and wolves from low-flying planes.  The 44-year-old governor says a federal government decision to protect the polar bear will cripple energy development offshore. As a result, she is suing the Bush administration, which ruled the polar bear is endangered and needs protection.

The US Geological Survey says climate change has shrunk Arctic summer sea ice to about 1.65 million sq miles, nearly 40 per cent less than the long-term average between 1979 and 2000.  In such a situation it was unconscionable for Governor Palin to ignore overwhelming evidence of global warming’s threat to sea ice, says Kassie Siegel of the Centre for Biological Diversity.

“Even the Bush administration can’t deny the reality of global warming,” Ms Siegel said. “The governor is aligning herself and the state of Alaska with the most discredited, fringe, extreme viewpoints by denying this.”

Governor Palin would also like to bring open-cast coal mining to Alaska’s Brooks Range Mountains, an act of environmental vandalism in the eyes of many.  The Palin administration has allowed Chevron to triple the amount of toxic waste it pours into the waters of Cook Inlet. This, even though the number of beluga whales in the bay has collapsed from 1,300 to 350 – the point of extinction – because of pollution and increased ship traffic.

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