Posted at http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/6530 on: 08/03/2012 by Curtis A. Moore

On January 18, 2012, President Barack Obama rejected the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. It would ship up to 590,000 barrels per day of “bitumin,” a kind of crude oil, ripped from the tar sands of Canada 1,700 miles south to refineries lining the Gulf of Mexico.

Environmentalists cheered the decision, with Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council calling it “a victory of truth over misinformation,” and environmental author-turned-activist Bill McKibben saying it “isn’t just the right call, it’s the brave call.”

Despite such celebrations, the battle over Keystone, which has become a real and symbolic battle over oil and its role in global warming, is not over, for two reasons.

First, Obama did not denounce the merits of the pipeline itself, but instead condemned the “rushed and arbitrary deadline” set by congressional Republicans, forcing him to accept or reject the proposal by February 21, 2012. “This announcement is not a judgment on the merits of the pipeline, but the arbitrary nature of a deadline,” he said in the Washington Post.

Second, and more importantly, there is an immense amount of money at stake, held by some of the continent’s most powerful interests. The names of some stakeholders–Royal Dutch Shell, for example–are well known. But others whose riches ride on the debate’s outcome, including Charles and David Koch, tied as the 18th richest persons in the world according to Forbes magazine, have tried to keep a low profile.

On Jan. 30, 2012, as if to underline the on-going nature of the debate over the pipeline, Sen. John Hoeven (R.-ND) and 44 others, all but one Republican, introduced legislation in the United States Senate that would authorize “TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P….to construct, connect, operate, and maintain pipeline facilities… for the import of crude oil and other hydrocarbons at the United States-Canada Border at Phillips County, Montana.”

As the debate intensifies, arguments over the Keystone XL pipeline have grabbed the front pages of newspapers and headlines of the evening news shows. But the media has focused little attention focused on the real consequences of the pipeline, among them, a probable increase by some estimates of gasoline prices in the Midwestern United States of 30 cents per gallon for regular and 10 to 20 cents per gallon elsewhere.

But that is not where the flow of money will stop. Oil from Canada’s tar sands will supply a feedstock to the U.S. refining industry, which is enjoying explosive growth in exports. In the words of CNN Money, “The United States is awash in gasoline. So much so, in fact, that the country is exporting a record amount of it.”

In September 2011, the United States exported 430,000 more barrels of gasoline a day than it imported, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That is about twice what it exported at the start of the year, and “experts and industry insiders say the trend is here to stay,” reported CNN Money.  Moreover, all of the places in the United States where Canadian tar sands oil might arrive, and from which gasoline, diesel fuel and other refined products made from it, would be shipped are so-called foreign trade zones.

This means that exports to other countries—but not sales within the United States—are exempt from taxes.

These places include Houston, Port Arthur, Corpus Christi and Freeport, Texas as well as New Orleans, Lake Charles, LaPlace and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Canada’s system is a bit different, but the bottom line is the same: “If you export the goods from Canada, you do not pay duties and taxes,” explains one official government publication. (http://investincanada.gc.ca/download/1027.pdf) What the oil and products made from it will generate, however, is profit–and lots of it.

There will be increased profit from the sale of the increased output of oil and gas that will be sold on the world market. There will be increased profit from the rise in the price of tar sands oil already being imported into the United States. And, there will be increased profit from the rise in the price of gasoline, diesel, heating oil, chemicals and other products, regardless of where the crude from which they are made imported from.

While Congress has haggled over whether and how much to either cut or increase taxes, almost no attention has been paid to the massive transfer of wealth that would likely result from construction of the pipeline. As much as 30 cents per gallon of gasoline would be taken from the pockets of U.S. drivers and transferred to the accounts of some the world’s richest corporations and people.

As the pipeline distributes oil to the Gulf, it redistributes wealth upward. In the aggregate, the price increases triggered by construction of Keystone would amount to a, if you will, hidden tax of about $44 per year on every man, woman and child in America. Unlike the money collected by the government, however, the increased profits of roughly $13.8 billion would go not to support food stamps, buy fighter jets or bolster Social Security. Instead, it would find its way into the bank accounts of men and women in the wood-paneled offices of Houston, Calgary and Wichita.

Although few are aware of it, a great deal of tar sands oil that proponents want to pump all the way to Texas and Louisiana already makes its way out of Canada. But it goes only as far as Cushman, Okla., where the glut of oil depresses gasoline and diesel prices throughout the Midwest and much the rest of the United States. 3 In Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for example, regular gasoline was selling for $3.17 a gallon on Feb. 14, 2012 at the Road Star station at 5501 NE 10th St. near Sooner Rd. In nearby Wichita, Kan., 162 miles away, regular was $3.25. But 1,337 miles away from the tar sands oil glut, in similarly sized Baltimore, Md., a gallon of regular cost $3.43, with a national average of $3.48.

Politicians who refuse to increase the taxes of millionaires have eagerly lined up in Congress in support of increasing the price of gasoline for working people to benefit a handful of billionaires. Every Senator that supported Hoeven’s bill to mandate approval of Keystone also voted against debating a proposal by Sen. Bob Casey (D.-Penn.) to increase the tax on the income of millionaires.
Secure Energy or Dirty Oil?

Proponents of the Keystone pipeline argue, as did the Financial Times on Nov. 6, 2011, that the oil is “a reliable source of supply from a friendly country.” Opponents say it is the dirtiest oil on earth, one whose use would increase global warming at the exact time humanity should be slowing it. Pipeline supporters say the decision is about jobs and energy security. Opponents say the issue is the unnecessary acceleration of global warming and devastation of local ecosystems.

There is no doubt that exploiting tar sand oil is a nasty process. Trees are snapped like twigs and torn from the earth. The remaining brush and soil are ripped away, exposing the tarry sands, rich in oil-like bitumen.

One barrel of oil requires two of sand. A shovel operator sits 30 feet above the mine floor in a Bacyrus 495 cab large enough to hold only him, a microwave and a water cooler, and manipulates the massive scoop, filling it, then dropping 80 tons of tarry sand into a Caterpillar 797B truck. Five massive scoops fill the megatruck and it pulls away as another pulls in. Nearly 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the scoop operator swivels and fills each truck with a load about the weight of a Boeing 757 jetliner.

Within view of the operator, the Athabasca River runs a few hundred yards from the tar sands. The river begins in the pristine meltwater from the snow pack and glaciers of the Canadian Rockies, tumbles down waterfalls, rushes over waterworn rock to form world-class rapids, cuts through ancient stone gorges and finally arrives at the tar sands, to become what some call the River of Death.

To float bitumin free from the sands to which is glued, the noxious mess dumped from trucks must be saturated with hot water. The estimates vary, but generally agree that one barrel of oil requires three to five barrels of water.

The Athabasca’s torrent is diverted, heated, and added to the sand, which is slurried into a paste that is agitated to release bitumen. Tiny air bubbles attach to bits of bitumen and float them into a skimmer. Residual water and solid waste is pumped into massive lagoons separated from the river by thin strips of soil, while the bitumen is eventually upgraded into synthetic crude oil, then pumped south to the United States.

The wastewater—about 500,000 barrels per day—is pumped into massive lagoons and seeps into the Athabasca. Downstream, researchers have found elevated and abnormal levels of cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, silver, and zinc.

The Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP), a government-supported and industry-funded agency claims that the Athabasca River’s quality is not impacted by tar sands development. But scientists at the University of Alberta found that “the oil sands industry substantially increases loadings of toxic metals”. One group concluded in 2009 that tar sands mining, treatment and waste disposal resulted in higher concentrations of polycyclic organic matter “that were likely toxic to fish embryos.”

The biggest environmental threat caused by tar sands oil production is not contamination by heavy metal and toxic chemicals, massive scarring of the earth, unbridled consumption of pristine water or the relentless march of steel piping across 1,700 miles, but global warming. Further exploitation of the tar sands is, in the words of Simon Dyer of the Canadian environmental group the Pembina Institute,” a decision point for North America and the world.”

Canada’s tar sands are estimated by oil company BP to be more than 175 billion barrels of recoverable oil, just behind Venezuela at 211 billion and Saudi Arabia’s 264 billion But most of that is so far untapped, with Canada accounting for only little over 4 percent of global oil production in 2010. One explanation for Canada’s relatively low standing among oil-exporting nations is the cost of producing tar sands bitumin.

Saudi oil is light and comes out of the ground relatively easily, at a cost often of less than $10 a barrel. Canadian tar sands oil is heavy, sticky and can cost more than $60 a barrel to extract. As oil prices have risen, however, so has the interest in exploiting the tar sands.

Even if emissions from the production processes were equal, Canada’s emissions of carbon dioxide would rise due to increased tar sands production. But they’re not. To extract bitumin from tar sands and convert it into something resembling conventional crude oil requires more energy barrel-for-barrel, which translates to increased pollution. How much more pollution is a matter of dispute. The Toronto Globe and Mail reported in August, 2011, that a Canadian government study had concluded that development of the tar sands would “single-handedly undo greenhouse gas gains made by weaning the country’s electrical supply off coal.”

The Money Behind the Pipeline

As environmental and energy issues take the headlines, it’s the money behind the scenes that drives the debate.

According to Argonne National Laboratory, Canada’s tar sands already yield more than one million barrels of synthetic oil per day, which is about 40 percent of Canada’s total oil production This output is expanding rapidly. Approximately 20 percent of U.S. crude oil and products come from Canada, and a substantial portion of this amount comes from tar sands. Indeed, Orion magazine reports that Alberta’s tar sands are now America’s leading source of crude oil.

Mother Jones magazine writes that “long before the Keystone XL became a cause célèbre, tar sands oil was already ubiquitous in America: It goes to fuel our cars and corporations’ trucking fleets, and it’s used in the production of products from aluminum cans to asphalt.” Mother Jones has created an interactive map, based on data supplied by San Francisco-based environmental advocacy group Forest Ethics, showing refineries from Anacortes, Washington, to Warren, Pennsylvania, that already use tar sands oil.

Koch Petroleum, a privately held company based in Wichita, Kansas, and owned by Charles and David Koch is among the largest importers of tar sands oil. Reuters, citing a SolveClimate News analysis, reports that Koch imports close to 25 percent of the oil sands crude already brought into the United States and “is well-positioned to benefit from increasing Canadian oil imports.”

Canadian tar sands oil is also a big profit center for Royal Dutch Shell. According to The Times of London, Shell made post-tax profit of $21.75 per barrel of tar sands oil in 2006, compared to just $12.41 per barrel on ordinary crude. Texas oil company Valero owns several Alberta, Canada, area refineries, as well as another in Port Arthur, Texas. A Valero spokesman, Bill Day, calls Canada “a tremendous potential supplier for us.”

TransCanada, developer of the Keystone XL Pipeline, estimates that the price of tar sands oil would increase about $3 per barrel as a result of the pipeline. Its estimate is one of the most conservative. For Koch Petroleum, which imports 400,000 barrels daily, this would translate to a jump in profits of about $1.2 million per day, or $438 million per year.

Rising tar sands prices would likely lift all oil prices. Recall that the current glut of tar sands oil is depressing U.S. prices of gasoline, diesel and other petroleum products, regardless of the source of the oil being refined. TransCanada’s Louis Fenyvesi insists that while tar sands crude is cheaper than oil from the Persian Gulf, the savings would be passed along to motorists. “That will have a positive impact on gasoline prices in the Midwest and other markets served from the Gulf Coast,” Fenyvesi told the Journal Star of Lincoln, Nebraska.

But according to an analysis by Canadian economist and consultant Philip Verleger, inserted in the Congressional Record by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D.Ohio), the Keystone XL pipeline would increase gas prices by 10 to 20 cents per gallon across the United States. The greatest price increase would occur in 15 mostly central states: between Illinois west to North and South Dakota.4 where prices would increase by an estimated $6.55 per barrel of crude oil in the Midwest and $3 average per barrel across the United States.

People throughout the world are paying higher prices for gasoline than U.S. drivers. That includes drivers in the East African nation of Eritrea ($9.46 a gallon), Kenya ($5.94), Chile ($5.18), Nicaragua ($5.07), India ($4.94) and El Salvador ($4.70). In Oslo, Norway, the price of gasoline in 2008 was $9.85 per gallon. In one study, consumers in nearly three-quarters of about 150 nations surveyed paid more for fuel than Americans.

An analysis conducted by Purvin & Gertz Inc. for TransCanada, Keystone’s builder, explained—
“Existing markets for Canadian heavy crude, principally PADD II [U.S. Midwest], are currently oversupplied, resulting in price discounting for Canadian heavy crude oil. Access to the USGC [U.S. Gulf Coast] via the Keystone XL Pipeline is expected to strengthen Canadian crude oil pricing in [the Midwest] by removing this oversupply. This is expected to increase the price of heavy crude to the equivalent cost of imported crude.”

The “equivalent cost of imported crude” is much higher than current prices in the United States, so overnight, those who already own tar sands oil see the price of their oil jump sharply. As the price of tar sands crude rises so, too, do the prices of all other crude and refined products. This has already happened once.

The February, 2012, prices for so-called “Brent” crude oil, the benchmark used for Europe and much of the world, and “West Texas Intermediate (WTI),” the benchmark used in the United States, were $118 and $101 respectively. U.S. prices for not only oil but gasoline and other products made from it remain depressed in part because of the glut of tar sands oil. As Forbes magazine recently explained, “Oversupply at Cushing is one of the major factors behind the spread between U.S. oil prices, measured by the West Texas Intermediate contract, and Brent, the international benchmark.” If the Cushing glut is reduced or eliminated, the spread between WTI and Brent will narrow or perhaps disappear altogether.

The potential for the price increases that would follow in the United States was illustrated in November, 2011 when Enbridge, an Alberta, Canada pipeline company and competitor of TransCanada, announced that it had bought a half interest in the 500-mile, 30-inch diameter, Seaway Pipeline running from Cushing to Houston, and would reverse its flow, sending tar sands oil south to the Gulf, thus easing the bottleneck.

When news of the Seaway reversal broke, oil prices surged past $100 a barrel in New York. The spread between the prices of Brent and WTI crude had reached $27.88 on October 14, but narrowed to less than $9 on Nov. 19, 2011. The increase in that single day, boosted the annual profits of the Koch brothers by $2.7 billion. The spread has since re-widened but nevertheless is still lower than it was previously.

In the words of the Montreal Gazette, “That spread has been pushing up profits for energy companies with refineries in the U.S. Midwest, whose market for refined products is tied to global prices but whose crude supplies have been tracking cheaper WTI prices.” (http://www.montrealgazette.com/business/Enbridge+TransCanada+ramp+race+Texas/5723041/story.html).

Arguments and Counter-Arguments

Those favoring Keystone XL argue that:

u25cf The pipeline will create jobs. Television advertisements produced by the American Petroleum Institute cite what the Los Angeles Times calls “an industry-backed study” done by the Perryman Group concluding that Project XL would create 20,000 jobs directly and almost 120,000 indirectly. But Sean Sweeney, director of Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute, told the Times “That number is unsubstantiated. No study has actually claimed or supported those numbers.”

u25cf The pipeline will increase America’s supply of “friendly” oil. U.S. Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE) is not alone in referring to the tar sands oil as “friendly.” According to one survey, 79 percent of broadcasters, 59 percent of cable commentators and 45 percent of newspapers and magazines support construction of the pipeline.

However, the argument that oil from Canada will lessen U.S. dependence on the Persian Gulf fails to take into account that cars burn gasoline or diesel, not crude. Oil from Keystone XL does not necessarily equal gasoline for U.S. consumers. Refineries in Port Arthur, Texas alone have spent over $20 billion in upgrades to enable them to turn thick-and-toxic tar sands oil into refined products such as gasoline. They sell refined products on the open market to the highest bidder, and prices are currently higher outside the United States.

Royal Dutch Shell, owner of 60 percent of the giant Athabasca Oil Sands Project in Alberta, according to Canada’s Financial Post, has already spent about $7 billion for the largest expansion of its Port Arthur refinery in 30 years. Its capacity more than doubled, from 275,000 barrels of crude oil per day to 600,000. That makes the refinery the nation’s largest and one of the biggest in the world, according to Texas Gulf Coast On-Line.

A veto of Keystone XL will cause Canada to sell tar sands oil to China. Perhaps to force the U.S. into approving the pipeline, the Canadian government has said that if Keystone is definitely rejected developers will simply sell the oil directly to fuel-thirsty China. The oil would be shipped via the “Northern Gateway” pipeline proposed by Enbridge Energy from from Alberta to British Columbia, where it could be exported to China and other Asian markets. That pipeline wouldn’t cross American soil, so U.S. approval is not needed.

But according to National Geographic, the trans-Canada project “so far appears a pipe dream.” There is steep opposition from Canadian environmentalists and native Indian nations that control parts of the route through British Columbia. On Dec. 5, 2011, the Gitxsan tribe rejected the proposal, saying “the Enbridge Pipeline holds no future for our children.” One month earlier the Coastal First Nation said they “categorically oppose Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Project.”

Increasing Global Warming

Writing in the Washington Post Michael Levi, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said that even though a gallon of gasoline refined from tar sands oil produces 5 to 15 percent greater emissions of carbon dioxide than that from conventional crude and that Canada’s oil sands are the world’s third-largest oil deposit, the pipeline’s oil would add “no more than a small fraction of 1 percent of total annual U.S. greenhouse gas pollution.”

In contrast, NASA scientist James Hansen warns that burning that oil completely would be “game over” for the planet’s fight against global warming change.

These positions sound contradictory but, in fact, Levi and Hansen are both right. Levi is correct in saying that stopping the Keystone XL will have only a minor direct impact on global warming over the near-term. According to Susan Solomon, senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the effects of global warming from carbon dioxide would still be felt for 1,000 or more years even if not another molecule were emitted, starting this instant. These are not just her conclusions, but those of a panel convened by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the world’s most prestigious scientific organization. Long before the tar sands could be exhausted, the planet’s fate will have been decided.

Hansen is also correct, however, because Keystone XL is of enormous symbolic importance. It pits the forces that have created global warming–polluters and their profits–against the interests of the public. If the United States, the world’s strongest economy, is so lacking in national will that is incapable of stopping an increase in greenhouse gases, what hope can there be of actually cutting emissions?

Over the long term, emissions of carbon dioxide must be cut if further global warming is to be avoided. The fight over Keystone pits the short-term profit of a few against the long-term survival of all.
But to slow global warming in the near term, which is essential to buy time for the cooling benefits of cuts in carbon dioxide to kick in, pollutants that cause global warming but with lifetimes ranging from a few days to a few years, must be severely and quickly reduced.

Such an approach has recently been proposed by Drew Shindell, an ozone, or smog, specialist and climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a group of 23 other scientists. (http://www.sciencemag.org/content/335/6065/183) They recommend cutting emissions of black carbon, or soot, as well as natural gas and other pollutants that create ground level ozone, or smog. Such an approach would not only brake warming but avoid 0.7 to 4.7 million annual premature deaths from breathing air pollution. Since smog not only causes warming, also stunts growth and otherwise injures plants and forests, they predict that annual crop yields would increases by 30 to 135 million metric tons per year.

Thus, the struggle over whether to build the Keystone XL pipeline as a means of exploiting Canada’s tar sands, pits money on the one hand against the environment–indeed, some would say the very survival of many–on the other. What is at stake includes massive consumption of pristine waters, pollution of air, water and ground, the destruction of vast swaths of forest, and accelerated global warming from facilities resembling the scenes of a nightmare.

Construction of Keystone would sacrifice all these to enrich a relative few. Five states–Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Texas–stand to gain from increased taxes of between $14 and 63 million a year, according to U.S. State Department estimates. In the sixth state, Kansas, lawmakers gave TransCanada a 10-year tax exemption, according to Inside Climate News.

Once it reached the Gulf Coast, the tar sands oil would generate a profit stream as it joined the recent immense growth in the export of oil products from the United States. The number-one product exported by the U.S. in 2011 wasn’t agricultural or manufactured goods, but something that a decade ago didn’t even register on the country’s top 25 list of exports: refined fuel.

The U.S. hasn’t been a net exporter of refined fuel since Harry Truman was president. But in 2011, an estimated $88 billion worth of gasoline and related products were exported. In the words of the Newark Star-Ledger, “the thirst for gasoline elsewhere on the planet has become ravenous, and U.S. companies are happily trying to quench it.”

Keystone’s construction would pose a threat to new laws in Europe and some U.S. states such as California, Oregon and Washington to force a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by imposing a “low carbon fuel standard.” Such laws attempt to move away from carbon-rich fuels, such as gasoline refined from conventional oil, and toward natural gas, ethanol, biodiesel and other less polluting options.

Because tar sands oil is more polluting, low carbon fuel standards effectively preclude the sale of gasoline, diesel and other fuels refined from tar sands. This is one reason that some oil companies are seeking to overturn the standards. Valero, Tesoro, and Koch, for example, spent $8.2 million or more in an unsuccessful campaign to repeal California’s landmark global warming law, AB32.

The New York Times reported that in the effort to repeal AB32 “A large chunk of the $8.2 million raised in support of the ballot proposition has come from just two Texas-based oil and gas companies, Valero and Tesoro, which have extensive operations in California (and) the Koch brothers.” Voters rejected the effort handily, delivering Valero and its allies what one Sacramento Bee columnist termed a “drubbing.”

That didn’t end the struggle, however. Valero and its allies filed suit in federal court, arguing that California had exceeded its constitutional authority. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill of Fresno sided with them, and struck down California’s low carbon fuel standard. That is unlikely to be the end of the fight, however. As professor Richard M. Frank of the University of California at Davis said, “It is a harbinger of legal challenges to come” over state environmental laws.

The fight over Keystone pits the survival of Earth and its inhabitants against the interests of big money. It is impossible to say with confidence who will ultimately prevail. We can be certain only that the pipeline, tar sands, and the big money of Big Oil will continue to be arrayed against actions to reduce global warming.

The cards are stacked in favor of tar sands oil and the Keystone pipeline. Barring some unforeseen turn of events, Americans will be forced to pay for tar sands oil twice.

One price will be up front, in the form of the increased gasoline costs. The second price, however, will be in something vastly more precious than mere money: the future of our country and, especially, our children.

Curtis A. Moore, an independent lawyer and writer, is author of Green Gold: Japan, Germany, the United States and the Race for Environmental Technology, and was Republican counsel to the U.S. Committee on Environment and Public Works for 11 years. He is currently completing a book on global warming and its politics in the United States. He collaborates with the Americas Program

For good, but not great (it contains, for example, no information on energy consumed by pumping and otherwise moving water, which is about 10 percent) background on U.S. Energy use, go to

http://theweek.com/article/index/236706/americas-energy-addiction

This is a weekly edition of the Christian Science Monitor. In comments, I posted the following:

Having spent most of my professional career identifying sources of air pollution and ways to reduce it, my conclusion is that it’s virtual elimination, while challenging economically, is certainly feasible technologically and at much lower cost than most believe. There are power plants that extract 90 percent of coal’s energy (Stockholm, visited it in 1989), steel mills that use no coke (South Korea), four passenger cars that travel 100 miles on a gallon of fuel (Tokyo, saw it in 1989), lighting that reduces energy consumption by over 90 percent (currently available). Electricity can be generated from sunlight (California, Spain), wind (Denmark, Texas), cooking stoves for third-world countries that are 90 percent efficient (India, South and Central America) and lighting that reduces emissions of black carbon to zero (World Bank). There are literally thousands of solutions, many of which save money: feed additives will reduce methane emissions from cattle, while increasing meat and milk yields (Vermont), for example. Methane leaking from refineries and natural gas operations is simply wasted fuel that could be eliminated by just tightening valves (Texas). The problem is that the American public has been gulled, most by the oil, coal, electricity and railroad industries, into disbelieving the obvious—air pollution kills and warms. (see my book, Cliffs I: How and Why America’s Billionaires and the Republican/Libertarian/Tea Party are Pushing Us Over).

Many of you have not heard from me for quite some time.  I have been writing a two-volume set of books, Cliffs I and II. Cliffs I, How and Why America’s Billionaires and the Republican/Libertarian/Tea Party Are Pushing Us Over is now being published as both a kindle on Amazon and as a print-on-demand book (for old folks like me who prefer to dog ear pages, underline text, etc.).  Cliffs II, which will be out in a couple months or so, will focus wholly on solutions to global warming and the reason we are not adopting them.  I can tell you now, that oil is the enemy here: oil companies, oil nations, oil users and more.  Cliffs I deals with this somewhat, describing how the late Don Pearlman, David Finnegan, the Kuwaitis and Saudis conspired to kill the Kyoto Protocol in the cradle, otherwise it is essentially a description of the manner in which billionaires have taken over the Republican Party and, with it, the nation.

For a preview of the book, and to provide you with some idea of the book’s coverage and tone go to:  https://www.createspace.com/Preview/1111291

Frankly, I have struggled with the information in these two volumes for years and could not, then or now, figure out how to explain America’s adamant refusal to not act against global warming, but to even admit its reality without telling the stories of Lewis Powell, Bill Simon, the Koch brothers, casino mogul, Sheldon Adelson, the Scaife family and the many others who have effectively killed what we once knew of as the Republican Party.  Of course, the effects of this takeover can be seen in every policy arena–taxes, health care, the economy, highway and infrastructure decline, but it is only global warming that can kill our children and leave us an earth utterly different from that into which we were born and in which we have evolved.

If you are interested in this book, please feel free to review it, even if you disagree violently with my conclusions, which is what I expect will be the case.  It can be found at Amazon by clicking on this link for hard copy:

http://www.amazon.com/Cliffs-Americas-Billionaires-Republican-Libertarian/dp/1480015695/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350936226&sr=1-7&keywords=curtis+a+moore

Or this for the Kindle version:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009V5YGD2

If you are a member of Amazon Prime, the book can be “borrowed” at no cost.

The current price for a Kindle copy is $6.00.

In my judgment, the book is good, timely and important.  I hope that you agree and will say so.  Please share this blog with your friends.

Thank you, and I hope this finds you well.

Curtis Moore

I have zero expectation that Mr. Krugman, whose analyses I highly regard, will either read or heed the contents of this comment. Let me at the outset provide my credentials: from 1978 to 1989, I was counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works where I organized on December 10, 1985 the first-ever Senate hearing on global warming. I served at the will of Sen. Robert T. Stafford os Vermont, the most environmentally responsible Senator since Edmund S. Muskie, who wrote the revolutionary Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. I have also worked for two other Senators, both also environmental champions: the late William V. Roth, Jr. and Patrick Leahy. I have written two books, innumerable articles, including companion magazine pieces 20 years ago,”Does Your Cup of Coffee Cause Forest Fires?” and “Will Changing Your Light Bulb Save the World?” My clients have ranged from Greenpeace and the American Lung Association to the Southern California Gas Company and the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

The Waxman-Markey bill is not better than nothing, but instead a likely death warrant. First, it focuses almost exclusively on a pollutant, carbon dioxide, with a lifetime of 50 to 3,000 years. Reductions today will do virtually nothing to save the Arctic, Antarctic, tundra, permafrost, glaciers and humanity. For that, there must be immediate and immense reductions in short-lived causes of global warming, which have lifetimes of a few seconds to a few years: black carbon, or soot; ozone, or smog; methane, or natural gas; the “F-gases” such as CFCs, HCFCs, HFCs, etc.

Secondly, the bill relies heavily on emissions trading, which has never, ever worked. It failed for leaded gasoline, ditto for smog in southern California, carbon dioxide in the so-called Clean Development Mechanism for CO2, the European trading programs for CO2 and the acid rain trading program. I spent four months traveling to California and Europe, interviewing officials and scientists, and the plain truth is that trading simply does not work. Think it does? Hike into the mountains of Vermont, and you will find the same soils that were poisoned when the acid rain program was adopted in 1990 still poisoned. The lakes are still dead and so are the forests. Sen. Stafford knew exactly what was required to save those lakes, forests and soils: a 16- to 18-million-ton reduction in sulfur missions, but the political will didn’t exist, so politicians–with the complicity of some environmental groups–hid the truth from the public by pretending that trading would do the trick.

Similarly, Stafford knew exactly what was required to save us from global warming: reductions in the full range of pollutants that cause global warming. Had the comprehensive legislation he introduced been enacted, the United States would today have cut its CO2 emissions by half, eliminated F-gases, and taken a wide range of other measures to reduce smog and other causes of warming. One advantage of Stafford’s approach is not only that it could work, but it provides actions that China, India and other such nations could take that would saves the lives of their own citizens. Indoor exposure to black carbon, for example, kills 5 million children under the age of 5 annually in the developing world.

This is science, not social policy. If the objective is to eliminate child labor, perhaps starting with a ban on 10-year-olds working, then later moving to 12-year-olds and so on is a defensible first step, and better than nothing. Same with a minimum wage or racial discrimination.

But science operates on rigid rules and is indifferent to human survival: to achieve a given effect requires a sufficient cause. If it requires 10, for example, 11 might provide relief, but 8 or 9 will not. There is no such thing as a good first step. Some of the world’s most competent scientists, ranging from James Hansen at NASA’s Goddard Center to V. Ramanathan at the Scripps Oceanographic Institute are warning that we are imminent danger. Listen to them, and act accordingly.

I have known and worked with Henry Waxman and his staff, whom I admire greatly, for more than a quarter century. He is, in my judgment, the best legislator in Congress, and his staff is the most competent and dedicated known to me. But adoption of the Waxman-Markey proposal will prove merely that Waxman is a Chairman who can produce legislation, not that he is a Chairman who can eliminate the gravest threat ever posed to human survival. I wish he could and, mostly, I wish he would.

- Curtis123, VA

A generation ago, the officers and owners of America’s corporations, fed up with democracy, decided to quietly seize control of one of the nation’s political parties the Republican Party and, with it, America. It worked. Enriched by corporate money they GOP used deft appeals to racism, bigotry and other “values” to establish virtually complete Republican dominion. The consequences are everywhere. The nation has no universal health insurance because insurance companies, corporate employers, hospitals, doctors and insurance companies do not wish it. Electricity rates have soared because corporations wanted the profits that a so-called “free market” could provide. Pension and health benefits of people who retired decades ago have been slashed to maintain or increase shareholder profits.

Yet nowhere is the imprint of corporations and the rich clearer, or the peril greater, than with global warming. The planet is racing toward a “tipping point,” a slight change that triggers a massive, violent and irreversible shift: think avalanche, lightning, volcanic explosion or the Twin Towers, standing, standing, standing, then in seconds collapsing on themselves. Continue reading

Saving Ourselves is divided into four parts, as follows:

Part I: The Science of Global Warming and Needless Death and Illness.
Part II: The Technologies and Other Measures That Could Save Us.
Part III: The Three Pillars of the Modern Republican Party.
Part IV: The Tools Employed by the Modern Republican Party.
———————————————————————————

Click on the link below to read the proposal/synopsis of Saving Ourselves Saving Ourselves– Book Proposal

Although the world’s attention is increasingly focused on halting global warming by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide, created when carbon-rich fuels like coal, oil and gasoline are burned, most of the current warming is not due to carbon dioxide.  Yes, in the future CO2 will be the most powerful driver, so emissions must be eliminated.  But for the present, however, common pollutants like ozone, or smog, and black carbon, or soot, are the principal culprits, especially in the Arctic, where ozone is responsible for one-third to half of the warming during winter and spring.  The pollution is transported from industrialized countries in the Northern Hemisphere to the Arctic quite efficiently during these seasons.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has created a short animation showing how smog has increased with industrialization, and how it moves in to blanket the Arctic (http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?3340).  Saving polar bears, seals and other wildlife that live in what is sometimes called the Earth’s “air conditioner” will require concerted efforts to eliminate both smog and soot, starting immediately.

For a bit more than 72 hours this week, the American delegation to the global warming meetings in Bali took their counterparts, especially those from Europe, to school on the art of negotiation and picked them clean.

An agreement reached on Saturday, one day late, calls for exactly what the U.S. sought: two more years of negotiations to develop an agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Most importantly, from the U.S. perspective, there will be two more years of negotiations in which there is silence on how much greenhouse pollutants should be reduced, or by when. The Germans and others wanted specific numbers, ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent, though the impression is that almost anything, just so long as it was a number, would have been acceptable.

For the Bush Administration, as well as the oil, coal, auto, cement and other polluting industries that support it, this is a tremendous victory. Ditto for Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Nigeria and the other oil producing nations who rely on continued shipments of crude to the United States to fill our tanks, while we fill their banks.

The greatest single threat to the continued profitability of carbon-rich corporations and countries is that the world might agree—today, right now, not later—that carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced a certain amount, within a given time. The instant that happens, the money coming into their coffers will start dropping like an Olympic downhill skier and people start switch to wind, solar and other forms of non-polluting energy.

So from the perspective of those companies and countries, the Bush Administration saved their bacon. Looking from the outside it, it appears that the Bush negotiators were able to do this because negotiators from other democracies are, as a general matter, no match for those from the United States. That’s because the other governments are all parliamentary systems, in which the party that wins a majority in the legislative branch gets to run the executive as well. If the U.S. were a parliamentary system today, either Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, both Democrats, would be President instead of George Bush, a Republican.

Parliamentarians are not very good at negotiating, because, as a rule, they don’t have to. By definition, a minister has an executive branch position because the party has a majority in the parliament; and, because they have a majority, they decide what becomes law and what doesn’t.

As a result, a minister—the same thing as a U.S. Secretary–simply decides to issue a new law and, voila! There is one. That’s a bit of an over-statement, of course, but not much of one.

Of course, for a minster to prevail, a proposal must make it through a cabinet. That’s nothing compared to the gauntlet that a proposal in the United States must survive. In the U.S., to become law a piece of legislation must be guided through a process in which it is theoretically subject to 93 different votes, and each is sudden death. Lose once, and the game is over. Then, if a bill passes both house of Congress, it must be signed by the President.

The same is true for the annual appropriations bills that provide money to keep the government running. Allocating cash to, say, Alaska instead of, say, Kentucky or for bridges instead of dams is also a process of negotiation. Indeed, the entire American political system is based on negotiating, so members of Congress get pretty good at it. It appears that somebody in or providing advice to the U.S. team in Bali was pretty good, too.

Consider, for example, what the world has witnessed first hand in the toe-to-toe battles of Bali: nothing.

Everything that the press and public knows is, at best, secondhand, and probably more distant than that. That may be because one of the cardinal rules of successful negotiation is to meet behind closed doors, which is exactly what happened in Bali. It wasn’t just the public excluded from the sessions, but most delegates –that is, people who represent entire nations with millions or perhaps even hundreds of millions of people–were barred from the behind-the-scenes negotiations.

Not surprisingly, neither the excluders nor the excludees were willing to identify themselves on the record, so who got in and who didn’t is a matter of speculation. Certainly reporters weren’t allowed in and, for that matter had a hard time figuring out where the meetings were being held because that, too, was a closely held secret. Indeed, presumably because they did not want to be caught in flagrante, the negotiators kept switching meeting rooms without notice.

The exclusionary policy didn’t apply only to the public and the press, but even to delegates. Most delegates were barred from the secret meetings because they were deemed unimportant to the process. Some nations—the United States, for example–were allowed not only to bring in delegates but supporting staff as well, while nations with tens or hundreds of millions of people were barred. (Knowledge is power, so a good negotiator wants his rocket scientist in the room and the other side’s not.)

To the extent that it can be known, the degree to which U.S. delegation followed some of the unwritten rules of Congressional negotiation appears to have been extraordinary. Some of these rules, in no particular order, are –

  • When the other side rejects your offer, reduce it. (“Don’t want to remain silent on how much emissions should be cut and by when? OK, we put the Kyoto Protocol on the table.”)
  • At some point, express outrage, whether real or feigned, and leave the room abruptly, preferably slamming the door. (No way to know whether this happened.)
  • Never have the final decision-maker in the room–always have somebody outside with whom the other side’s offer must be cleared. (“Gee, that sounds OK to me, but I’ve got to take it back to….”)
  • Negotiate the small points first, saving the most important for last, when the other side is tired. Give the other side as many inconsequential wins as possible, so that when the score is tallied it looks like they’re way ahead. (“OK, OK, the forestry stuff is acceptable. For places like Brazil and Indonesia that should count for a lot more than SUV emissions. That gives your side a bunch, and we don’t have any wins at all.”)
  • Even if you’ve already agreed to something, put it on the table anyway. Ignore objections. (“Yes, I know we were the ones who originally proposed a technology transfer program six years ago, but nobody said we intended to pay for it.”)
  • Make sure the other side believes you don’t care whether an agreement is reached, unless it’s on your terms. (“Hey, we will still be in office in 2008 so we can talk about this then if you want to.”)

When deal is reached, rake in your share, and as you do, start negotiating for a piece of the other side’s pile in the spirit of “Well, I’ve got my half. Now let’s talk about yours.” (“OK, so we agree there will be no binding numbers, but I think we should re-examine ….”)

Very importantly, put the negotiations in the hands of the person on your side with the biggest bladder. (No, I’m fine John. But if you want to take a break while the rest of us keep talking, that’s no problem.”)

Some of these sound silly, especially the one with the bladder, but they are real, and they are part of the process. And, seriously, members of Congress have walked away from a negotiating table to relieve themselves, only to find that in their absence some of their bargaining chips went missing.

Of course, winning by being hardnosed can have long term consequences, not necessarily good. Some bruised feelings were already visible in Bali, for never in the 13 years since the first Conference of the Parties, as these meetings are called, has the conduct of the United States engendered such ill will.

For example, at a press briefing Thursday by U.S. negotiators, a reporter’s question was predicated on a statement critical of the United States. When he described these facts, it triggered a spontaneous burst of applause–and nobody gets into that room without a press badge, so these were not environmental activists. Then on Saturday, the U.S. delegation itself was booed by onlookers.

Yes, the U.S. negotiators demonstrated that they’re tough, not folks you’d want meet in an alley in a dark night, so to speak. So what.The general rule is that the 800-pound gorilla wins, and given the size of the American economy and the vast amount of pollution that it produces–and that’s just from within the U.S. borders, not counting all the pollution from the tennis shoes, toys, furniture and the flood of other goods from China, India and other nations–the but this wasn’t a gorilla fight. It was an attempt to negotiate an agreement to safeguard the future of life as we know, and the future of every human being alive on the planet. Just how do no numbers, no dates and no binding commitment contribute to, to borrow a phrase from the preamble to the Constitution, the “general welfare” of America and her people?

Does it improve the lot of Americans to be devastated by more Katrina-like storms? Are those in the West better off with a snow pack that continues to disappear, or in the South with crops that continue to wither in drought? Are heat waves that claim hundreds of lives in the best interests of the American people?

Moreover, while no politician or political party want to govern by public opinion polls–or admit that they do–a succession of surveys have shown that Americas are gravely concerned by global warming, that they want action, and that they are willing to pay high prices to get it.

So how is it that the U.S. delegation journeys to Bali, stakes out a position that demonstrably places the American public at increased risk and runs contrary to their will? The answer is that, unlike the Congress, the President of the United States is not required to negotiate. He, like a parliamentary minister, can simply declare what the position of the nation will be, regardless of what the American people want, what’s good for them or what the Congress might attempt to say about it. The decision is unilateral, non-negotiable and final.

So Americans can take pride in the considerable negotiating skills of their representatives in Bali. But can they–and this is a literal question–live with the result?

California’s Suite Music

It’s Thursday of the second week of the climate negotiations in Bali, which is the traditional day to reach agreement–or not–at the international global warming negotiations. But do not confuse an agreement–if there is one, and there almost certainly will be–with a solution. A Bali roadmap may be a great accomplishment, but not a solution, nor will it lead to one. A solution is what is desperately needed–and there is one place in the world where it can be found–because the peril posed by global warming is far more grave and imminent than all but a few realize.

One of the great flaws in the negotiations process is that policies are developed on science as expounded by the 2,000 participants in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It, in turn, reaches its conclusions considering only studies published in “peer reviewed” literature, meaning they have been scrutinized closely by expert scientists. This means the science elaborated by the IPCC is rock solid, but three to five years old, so when negotiators from throughout the world gather annually to craft policies, they may be utterly ignorant of the newest science, even if has profound implications. That is certainly the case in Bali.

In the last five years, thanks in part to improved super computers and new information, but also due to the inspiration of some, scientists looking for answers to troubling and unexplained environmental changes, serious shortcomings in the assumptions on which the negotiating process is based have been revealed.

First, scientists knew that a variety of pollutants excluded from the Kyoto Protocol–tropospheric ozone, or smog, for example, and carbon monoxide the colorless, odorless gas emitted by every tailpipe and smokestack–cause global warming. But because they had short lifetimes–meaning they are destroyed by a variety of chemical reactions in the atmosphere or by other means–they were thought to be much less important than the so-called “long lived” gases. But in fact, it is now clear the majority of today’s warming is due to these short-lived pollutants.

Second, some pollutants were not then known to be significant causes of warming. Black carbon, like the soot emitted by diesels, for example was not seriously considered for inclusion in the Protocol. It now turns out, however, that it is a major cause of warming, especially where it darkens snow and ice, thus increasing the absorption of sunlight. Moreover, black carbon now appears to not only cause melting by warming areas like Greenland, Alaska and Siberia, but also by actually changing the way that snow melts, accelerating the process. This may account for the fact that while warming in the Arctic is roughly what computer models predict, melting is much, much faster, perhaps twice the speed of predictions.

Third, some pollutants and sources were excluded from coverage because, in theory, they are subject to other international agreements, but also because the true magnitude of their contribution to global warming was not accurately known. Ships, for example, are excluded. But recent estimates place are that they account not for a small amount of pollution, but an immense quantity: between 15 and 30 percent of global emissions of oxides of nitrogen, a pollutant that helps form smog, for example. Indeed emissions from ships are roughly equal to those of the continent of either Europe or North America. Aircraft are also excluded, even though they injects immense amounts of carbon where it can be most dangerous, at high altitudes and over the Arctic.

Negotiators also left chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the industrial chemicals like DuPont’s Freons that destroy stratospheric ozone, out of global warming coverage, supposedly because they were subject to another international regime, the Montreal Protocol to Protect the Ozone Layer. Chemicals subject to Montreal are regulated, however, solely to address their impacts on stratospheric ozone. As a result, the chemical–again, one made by DuPont–now used as a chilling agent in the air conditioners of cars and trucks was allowed on the market as a CFC replacement even though it was known at the time to be a powerful cause of global warming.

Perhaps worst of all, the true atmospheric lifetime of the chemical that will be the single largest contributor to global warming, carbon dioxide–created when carbon-rich fuels like coal, oil and wood are burned–was greatly underestimated. Although there was some uncertainty as to CO2′s lifetime, there was a consensus that one century was about right. Instead, it is now known that after even 1,000 years, one third of CO2 being emitted now will still be in the system.

The upshot of this miscalculation of CO2′s lifetime is that even if emissions were to cease this instant, it would be over a century before the full cooling benefit would be realized. These are grim realities, but as is often the case, there are solutions, if only policy-makers will address them.

Because the lifetimes of the short-lived pollutants range from a few days to weeks to a few years, reducing them can produce near-term cooling. HFC-134a, the DuPont chemical used in car air conditioners, has 3,400 times the warming power of CO2 on a molecule-to-molecule basis, and a lifetime of about 12 to 15 years. Thus, if the entire world were to ban use of the chemical in automotive air conditioners, as Europe is doing starting in 2011, there would be cooling benefit before children born today graduated from high school.

For the other short-lived pollutants that cause global warming, the health payback would be immense. Black carbon kills and ozone both kills and causes asthma. The global annual total surely is in the hundreds of thousands of deaths and tens of millions of illnesses. Reduce them, and needless sickness and death would be avoided–and reduce them we must.

The Earth is approaching–some believe it may have already passed–a half dozen tipping points. These are infinitesimally small changes that trigger sudden, often violent and irreversible change–think avalanche, lighting strikes and the Twin Towers, standing, standing, standing, then in seconds collapsing into immense heaps of rubble.

Because of the extended delay from the development of science until its restatement by the IPCC, none of these considerations is before negotiators in Bali. But one government in the world has considered these facts, then adopted the most comprehensive, multifaceted and aggressive program to combat global warming in the world. That government, which will come as no surprise to many, is California..

It was in California that the link between cars and smog was first established, where the first pollution control technologies were mandated and the first statewide regulatory program for air pollution was installed. It was California that gave birth to solar photovoltaic cells to generate electricity from sunlight, where turbines to generate electricity were installed in huge numbers and where the most aggressive and effective energy conservation requirements in the world were developed.

After reviewing new science and examining what regulations and new technologies could achieve, the California legislature adopted not one law, but an entire suite. (They are listed below.) They deal with the near, mid and long term; cover transportation, electricity generation, and industrial processes as well as residential and commercial activities. They require reductions right away–“early actions,” they’re called–and other cuts that must be the “maximum technologically feasible, cost effective” reductions.

They encourage the deployment of solar and wind power, and the adoption of new, tougher conservation requirements. They require reductions in not only carbon dioxide and the other pollutants covered by international global warming law, but also black carbon, ozone and its precursors and the industrial chemicals like DuPont’s 134a.

There are some gaps in the California Suite, but the legislature is working to close them, so that when they are finished the final product will be a solution–not just agreement. To see the California Suite become the symphony played worldwide would be, pardon the pun, sweet music indeed.

California Leads the Way to a Post-Kyoto World
With New Laws

2002
AB 1493 required reduced emissions of greenhouse gases from cars and light trucks.

2006
AB 32 requires—

+ “maximum technologically achievable and cost-effective” emission reductions;
+ reductions in emissions of all pollutants that cause global warming, not just those listed under the Kyoto Protocol;
+ implementation by January 1, 2010 of “discrete early actions” to reduce emissions;
+ adoption of “market-based compliance mechanisms” measures, which may include taxes, feebates, auctions and other approaches, as well as trading;
+ return to 1990 emission levels by 2010; and,
+ implementation to be by the state’s air pollution control agency, the California Air Resources Board.

SB 1 establishes goals of—
+ installing 3,000 megawatts solar generation capacity;
+ establishing a self-sufficient solar industry; and,
+ placing photovoltaic (PV) systems on 50 percent of new homes in 13 years.

SB 107 requires retail sellers of electricity to procure at least 20 percent of their retail sales from renewable power by 2010.

SB 1368 prohibits investment in new baseload capacity, or new or renewed contracts with a term of five or more years, unless the electricity is as clean as that from a modern, state-of-the-art powerplant.
AB 2021 requires the state to save 30,000 gigawatthours (GWh) of electricity over 10 years through energy efficiency measures.

AB 2778 extends the Self Generation Incentive Program (SGIP), which provides financial incentives to generating electricity with wind power and fuel cells.

Vetoed By Governor Schwarzenegger

SB 757 would have required state agencies to take every “cost-effective and technologically feasible action” to reduce the growth of petroleum demand and increase vehicle energy efficiency and the use of alternative fuels.

SB 927 would have imposed a $30 fee on each cargo container entering the Ports of Long Beach or Los Angeles to pay for reducing air pollution while improving security and rail transport.

AB 1012 would have required that starting in 2020, one-half of all new passenger and light-duty trucks, to be “clean alternative vehicles”, running on at least 50 percent non-petroleum fuel.

The Roadmap

Negotiators in Bali are in theory supposed to produce a “roadmap” to a future agreement to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. What might emerge instead, however, is a roadmap to a confrontation of historic proportions, a rematch between George Bush–or, at least, his surrogates–and his opponent in the campaign for the Presidency, former Vice President Al Gore.

The two could not be further apart on an issue than they are on global warming. Bush is casual and sanguine, Gore urgent and demanding. Bush’s emissaries to Bali, to their credit from their perspective, have thus far succeeded beyond all expectations in obstructing and slowing negotiations. The result has been, in the words of one journal that specializes in covering the proceedings, a “shift” in tone, with parties “already casting blamefor the apparent failure of talks” in one arena.

Ten years ago negotiations reach a similar stage in Kyoto, when they seemed hopelessly bogged down. Then Gore, whose signature issues even then were the threats of global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion, arrived unexpectedly on a White House jet. In a matter of about 13 hours he forged the consensus that became the Kyoto Protocol.

For the past several days Gore. He has been in Oslo, Norway to accept the Nobel Prize for Peace for his work to raise public concern over global warming. By all accounts his talks have been stemwinders, with an “almost historic aura,” according to one observer.

Thursday, Gore arrives in Bali where the situation today is much the same as 10 years ago in Kyoto. But on this occasion, those who have created the logjam are representatives of the United States.

Say what you like about the Bush’s appointees, there can be no doubt that some of them–at least judging from their work in Bali– are geniuses at negotiation. Bush’s second term as President expires in January, 2009, so in theory, decisions about international policy on global warming after that should be the responsibility of the person elected President in November, 2008. But Bush appointees in Bali have maneuvered themselves into a position that could freeze the current status quo, or something close to it, until as late as 2012.

So far, U.S. negotiators have –

● Refused to allow any reference to scientific evidence that rich nations should cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, saying that would “prejudge” the outcome of negotiations.

● Demanded striking draft language in the draft calling for “sufficient, predictable, additional and sustainable financial resources” to help poor nations adapt to climate change, saying it is vague.

● Opposed asking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the scientific body that asses global warming sciences and makes recommendations for action, for an updated report priot to the 2009 climate meeting. James L. Connaughton, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality and is in Bali, said it was too much, “a huge amount of work for the IPCC.”

● Rejected requests by developing nations such as China and India for industrialized countries to provide more money to ease the transfer of clean energy technology overseas and by poor nations to help them slow deforestation. American representatives said that while the United States endorses the goals in principle, it opposes specifying how much money developed countries should contribute.

Some of these are deal killers. Compelled in part by the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, passed in 1997 95-0 by the U.S. Senate demanding reductions by developing nations as a prerequisite to American participation in a global warming agreement, Bush’s negotiators have insisted on “measurable and reportable national mitigation actions” by the poorer countries. But for China, the price of agreeing to this is technology transfer. Thus, by refusing to agree to technology transfer, U.S. negotiators guarantee China will reject America’s demands for emission reductions by developing nations. That in turn, triggers the terms of the Byrd-Hagel resolution, allowing the White House to blame, at least in part, a Democrat, Sen. Robert C. Byrd.

Similarly, China refuses to agree to curb its emissions unless developed nations will commit to specific numeric reductions, which the U.S. rejects.

Thus, when Gore steps off the plane, he will arrive at a situation remarkably similar to that in Kyoto ten years ago. But there is one critical difference.

Then, the American public seemed barely aware of global warming, much less concerned. Now, two-thirds of Americans want action on global warming, and they want it now.

Then, there had not been a Hurricane Katrina, films of polar bears adrift on ice floes, record-setting heat waves throughout not merely the United States, but the entire world.

In Oslo, Gore could hardly have been more passionate. Saying that “our world is spinning out of kilter” and that “the very web of life on which we depend is being ripped and frayed,” he warned that “we, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency — a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here.” But, he added, “there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst — not all — of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively and quickly.”

Surely, few would have predicted a year ago–even a few months ago–that Bali might be where George Bush and Al Gore–or at the least, their respective values–would once again confront each other. And perhaps that confrontation will never transpire. But if it does, its outcome will not only what roadmap to the future is produced, but perhaps the future itself.

No Place for Cripples

On Tuesday, the second day of the second week of a Conference of the Parties, it reaches a full throated roar. Everybody has arrived. But at this one, in Bali, I kept looking in vain for the Wrecking Crew, who, lo and behold, were nowhere to be found.

Since the very first COP, and at many other associated assemblies, this handful of veteran American lobbyists, seasoned by as many as four decades in the trenches defending the interests of coal, oil, auto, cement and other companies, have been a fixture. For many years, their coordinator was Donald Pearlman, a silver-haired Washington lawyer who had worked in the Reagan Administration for Secretary of Energy Don Hodel. (It was Pearlman who said that the proper response to the increased cancer-causing sunlight from continued destruction of the stratospheric ozone layer by chemicals such as DuPont’s Freons was not to ban them, but instead for the public to wear hats and sunglasses.)

Pearlman could be seen at the Conferences sprawling in a couch or chair near the entrance to the meeting room for delegates, especially those from oil-rich nations such as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. Conveniently positioned to grab a delegate by the arm, Pearlman would whisper instructions, or pass a note. A few moments later, the delegate would ask for recognition and dutifully read what had been whispered or written.

But Pearlman’s ever-present cigarettes finally claimed his life, so the chair passed to Dave Finnegan, who spent decades working for the Rep. John Dingell, chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and a tough guy. An avid hunter, Dingell once told an interviewer that “When I go hunting, I take the biggest gun I can carry. When I shoot something I want it to go down. I don’t want any cripples walking around.”

Pearlman, Finnegan and the others share this take-no-prisoners attitude, which has made them extraordinarily effective–indeed, more effective than all but a few know.

Ten years ago, as it became clear that the nations of the world were steamrolling their way to Kyoto, the consensus was that some sort of global agreement would be arrived at and, more likely than not, the United States would be a party. After all, Al “Ozone Man”Gore, as he was casually derided by President Bush-the-father in campaign of 1992, held the nation’s number two spot, and the Congress was in the hands of those wacko treehuggers, the Democrats.

But not all Democrats are treehuggers, and chief among these is Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia. A former coal miner himself, Byrd was a pit bull when it came to protecting or advancing the interests of the state and its miners. Trouble is, how could he collect a majority of votes in a Senate that was increasingly troubled by the threat posed by global warming.

Byrd’s solution, in which he was joined by freshman Republican Chuck Hagel, was a stroke of genius: instead of opposing an international agreement outright, the pair merely objected to mandating emission reductions in the United States and other industrialized nations unless “new specific scheduled commitments” were imposed on developing nations. The resolution zipped through the Senate 95-0.

The rest was child’s play. Pearlman simply instructed the delegation from oil-rich Nigeria to object in Kyoto to the imposition of new commitments and, viola, the Protocol arrived in the United States still born. One observer insisted that in Kyoto he overheard Pearlman cackling gleefully while huddled with a Nigerian delegate, exalting over the victory, one that is now in its tenth year. Pearlman may be dead, but his victory survives, and that will continue to be the case as long as nations such as China, India and Nigeria object to “new specific scheduled commitments.”

Total attendance at the climate negotiations has risen steadily, even as meetings have been held in ever-more-distant locations, such as Bali this year and Nairobi, Kenya the last. Finnegan, it turns out, is here somewhere, according to the registration staff, even if he is less visible than in the past. Still, the presence of U.S. business lobbyists at this year’s session seems notably off, especially given the importance that some assign to it, expecting that it will lay the foundation a successor agreement to Kyoto.

The explanation for their absence may be quite simple: everything is going according to the plans laid out in the months preceding Kyoto. There have been ten years of massive disinformation–nay, outright lies and fraud–by so-called scientists in the pay of ExxonMobil, General Motors and much of the rest of corporate America. Now, as warming has become indisputable, the United States Congress is moving to adopt the worst of all possible solutions, and the one ardently desired by industries and the rich, emissions trading.

As long as the world’s biggest polluter, the United States, refuses to act, the rest of the world is caught between a rock and a hard place. Frankly, what they ought to do is act unilaterally and impose sanctions on nations that refuse to follow suit, including China, India and the United States. Would there be some sudden economic disruptions. Yes, and they might be severe.

As matters now stand, however, the world is continuing on what at least a few fairly well qualified people believe might later prove to have been a death spiral, a period where even incomplete action might have been enough to pull the planet back from the brink of climate chaos. Until at least some nations simply grit their teeth and confront the United States, they are little more than what John Dingell does not like to see walking around: cripples.

Re Donald Pearlman: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/jeremy_leggett/2006/04/exxonmobils_longlived_emulatio.html

Carbon wars

Beware renewed ExxonMobil’s efforts to discredit the evidence of climate change. They’ve been at it for years.

August 1990, Sundsvaal, Sweden: Don Pearlman of the World Climate Council, a key carbon club organisation, openly coaches the Saudi Arabian delegation to the final IPCC plenary before the World Climate Conference. The Saudis deploy stalling tactics as a device to water down the IPCC’s summary report, (attempted sabotage: partially successful), including a laughable concerted effort to excise the words “carbon dioxide” from the document (manipulation: partially successful).

Re Exxon: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=ExxonMobil#Exxon.27s_funding_of_climate_skeptics

Exxon’s funding of climate skeptics

A study by the US Union of Concerned Scientists reports that ExxonMobil funded 29 climate change denial groups in 2004 alone. Since 1990, the report says, the company has spent more than $19 million funding groups that promote their views through publications and Web sites that are not peer reviewed by the scientific community. [3]

See exxonsecrets.org for fact-sheets on funding recipients.

Re purpose of Bali:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/02/AR2007120200583.html

UN Kicks Off Bali Climate Conference

By JOSEPH COLEMAN
The Associated Press
Monday, December 3, 2007; 1:21 AM

Also: http://www.guardian.co.uk/leaders/story/0,,2220767,00.html

Hope and fear in Bali

Leader
Monday December 3, 2007
The Guardian

The science of climate change is clear. The politics of the world’s response are still murky, as the Bali summit, which begins today, will show. Even the most optimistic bets as to the outcome of the two-week meeting fall short of what scientists say is needed. There will be no transforming Bali protocol at the end of it, no sudden conversion of the United States to deep cuts in its own emissions and no binding agreement to cap pollution from rapidly growing economies such as China and India. Instead, 10,000 officials and ministers from around 190 countries will battle for advantage at the start of a process that will take at least two years to complete. The aim is to come up with a successor to the 1997 Kyoto protocol. No one can be sure yet what form it will take.

BALI, Indonesia — Delegates and scientists from around the world opened the biggest-ever climate change conference Monday, urging rapid progress in building a new international pact by 2009 to combat global warming _ or risk economic and environmental disaster.

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