‘Gross Denial of Reality’: Biden Infuriates With Approval of More Offshore Drilling

Original article by JULIA CONLEY republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

While the aftermath of hurricanes continue to affect residents, such as those in Houston, Texas devastated by Hurricane Harvey (see image), research has found that the frequency and intensity of these latest storms have done little to shift public opinion about their connection with global warming. (Photo: Texas Military Department, Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0)
While the aftermath of hurricanes continue to affect residents, such as those in Houston, Texas devastated by Hurricane Harvey (above), research has found that the frequency and intensity of these latest storms have done little to shift public opinion about their connection with global warming. (Photo: Texas Military Department, Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0)

“End Fossil Fuels is pretty clear,” said one advocate. “Not ‘hold slightly fewer lease sales,’ not ‘talk about climate action’—End. Fossil. Fuels.”

Rejecting the corporate media’s narrative that U.S. President Joe Biden’s newly-released offshore drilling plan includes the “fewest-ever” drilling leases, dozens of climate action and marine conservation groups on Friday said the president had “missed an easy opportunity to do the right thing” and follow through on his campaign promise to end all lease sales for oil and gas extraction in the nation’s waters.

The U.S. Interior Department announced Friday its five-year plan for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, including three new areas in the Gulf of Mexico where fossil fuel companies will be permitted to drill.Biden promised “no new drilling, period” as a presidential candidate, and the plan was announced six months after climate advocates were incensed by the administration’s approval of the Willow oil drilling project in Alaska.The new leases will be added to more than 9,000 drilling leases that have already been sold, and is “incompatible with reaching President Biden’s goal of cutting emissions by 50-52% by 2030,” said the Protect All Our Coasts Coalition, citing the findings of Biden’s own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Office of Atmospheric Protection earlier this year.

While the final plan scales back from the eleven sales that were originally proposed, said the coalition, “the plan is a step backwards from the climate goals the administration has set and for environmental justice communities across the Gulf South, who are already experiencing the disproportionate impact of fossil fuel extraction across the region.”

The coalition includes the Port Arthur Community Action Network, which has called attention to the risks posed to public health in the Gulf region by continued fossil fuel extraction.

“Folks in Port Arthur, Texas die daily from cancer, respiratory, heart, and kidney disease from the very pollution that would come from more leases and drilling,” said John Beard, the founder, president, and executive director of the group. “If Biden is to truly be the environmental president, he should stop any further leasing and all forms of the petrochemical build-out, call for a climate emergency, and jumpstart the transition to clean green, renewable energy, and lift the toxic pollution from overburdened communities.”

Kendall Dix, national policy director of Taproot Earth, dismissed political think tanks that applauded the “historically few lease sales” on Friday.

“The earth does not recognize political ‘victories,'” said Dix, pointing to an intrusion of saltwater in South Louisiana’s drinking water in recent weeks, which has been exacerbated by the fossil fuel-driven climate crisis.

“As the head of the United Nations and has said, continued fossils fuel development is incompatible with human survival,” he added. “We need to transition to justly sourced renewable energy that’s democratically managed and accountable to frontline communities as quickly as possible.”

Along with groups in the Gulf region, national organizations on Friday condemned a plan that they said blatantly ignores the repeated warnings of international energy experts and the world’s top climate scientists who say no new fossil fuel expansion is compatible with a pathway to limiting planetary heating to 1.5°C.

“Sacrificing millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas extraction when scientists are clear that we must end fossil fuel expansion immediately is a gross denial of reality by Joe Biden in the face of climate catastrophe,” said Collin Rees, United States program manager at Oil Change International. “Doubling down on drilling is a direct violation of President Biden’s prior commitments and continues a concerning trend.”

Rees noted that 75,000 people marched in New York City last week to demand that Biden declare a climate emergency and end support for any new fossil fuel extraction projects.

“End Fossil Fuels is pretty clear,” said Rees, referring to campaigners’ rallying cry. “Not ‘hold slightly fewer lease sales,’ not ‘talk about climate action’—End. Fossil. Fuels.”

Despite Biden’s campaign promises, Rees noted, the U.S. is currently “on track to expand fossil fuel production more than any other country by 2050.”

“I feel disgusted and incredibly let down by Biden’s offshore drilling plan. It piles more harm on already-struggling ecosystems, endangered species and the global climate,” said Brady Bradshaw, senior oceans campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity, another member of the Protect All Our Coasts Coalition. “We need Biden to commit to a fossil fuel phaseout, but actions like this condemn us to oil spills, climate disasters, and decades of toxic harm to communities and wildlife.”

The lease sales, said Sarah Winter Whelan of the Healthy Ocean Coalition, also represent a missed opportunity by the administration to treat the world’s oceans “as a climate solution, not a source for further climate disaster.”

Under the Inflation Reduction Act, negotiated by the White House last year, the government is required to offer at least 60 million acres of offshore gas and oil leases before developing new wind power projects of similar scope.

“A single new lease sale for offshore oil and gas exploration is one too many,” said Whelan. “Communities around the country are already dealing with exacerbating impacts from climate disruption caused by our reliance on fossil fuels. Any increase in our dependence on fossil fuels just bakes in greater impacts to humanity.”

Gulf communities, added Beard, “refuse to be sacrificed” for fossil fuel profits.

“We say enough is enough,” he said.

Original article by JULIA CONLEY republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). 

Continue Reading‘Gross Denial of Reality’: Biden Infuriates With Approval of More Offshore Drilling

Questions for climate denier and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak :: Question 2

Apologies, this is an incomplete draft, I have to rush off and do something important.

Canadian wildfire 2023
Canadian wildfire 2023

The first question is here.

While very responsible people and organisations are saying that no more fossil fuel projects are possible because our planet is burning to a crisp – I’ve paraphrased that a little but it’s certainly near enough.

For example:

This part to be completed, but it really is very easy to find examples …

So, my second question to climate denier Rishi Sunak is since all these responsible people and organisations – often scientists and reports based on scientific knowledge of the scientific community – why is he going against their advice and despite the extreme weather events as a result of the warming climate that we’ve been experiencing in recent years, how can he simply reject this huge body of evidence and subsequently, how can we have any faith in his sanity?

Continue ReadingQuestions for climate denier and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak :: Question 2

Hydrogen Lobby Sets Sights On Labour Party

Original article by Phoebe Cooke and Hazel Healy republished from DeSmog.

Emails seen by DeSmog show a PR lobby funded by gas companies is looking to influence the opposition party as likely winners of the next general election.

By Phoebe Cooke and Hazel Healy on Sep 26, 2023 @ 10:11 PDT

Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, addresses delegates at the 2022 Labour Party conference in Liverpool. Credit: Karl Black/Alamy
Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, addresses delegates at the 2022 Labour Party conference in Liverpool. Credit: Karl Black/Alamy

Hydrogen lobbyists are targeting the Labour Party after betting on the opposition winning next year’s general election, DeSmog can reveal.

Energy policy will be a major focus at the October conferences of both major parties, which fall weeks after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak dramatically announced plans to water down the UK’s green targets.

Emails seen by DeSmog reveal that the hydrogen lobby is now pivoting to Labour as the party most likely to win the next election. It comes after campaigners last year accused the hydrogen lobby of targeting the Labour conference with false solutions.

The communications were sent by Beyond2050, a PR agency and consultancy, which represents the UK’s biggest gas distributors and will be coordinating a “Hydrogen Zone” at the Labour and Conservative party conferences.

A number of the agency’s clients are expected to use their stands in the zone to promote the controversial and widely discredited use of hydrogen for home heating, which is favoured by the industry as it can combine with natural gas, and its existing infrastructure.

The Beyond2050 newsletter has also shared that “key politicians” may attend the networking drinks it is hosting at the Conservative meeting in Manchester (1-4 October) and at Labour’s conference in Liverpool (8-11 October). 

“The coming months are a key timeframe for the hydrogen industry to engage with the Labour Party,” wrote Beyond2050 founder and director Rob Dale in a newsletter sent to industry figures, politicians and journalists earlier this month.

“Labour continue to maintain a strong lead in the opinion polls and are on track to gain enough seats to win a majority at the next election.” 

Latest polling shows Labour increasing its lead ahead of the Conservatives. An Ipsos poll also found that 86 percent of British people believe the UK needs a fresh team of leaders. 

Experts have warned that exaggerating the potential of hydrogen could delay action on tackling climate change by obstructing the rollout of renewables and keeping the fossil fuel industry alive. Steve Goodrich, head of research and investigations at Transparency International UK, has warned politicians to be wary of industry influence.

“As the prospect of a general election looms, business interests will be redoubling their efforts to influence any potential government or minister,” Goodrich told DeSmog.

“Many of the groups behind this effort remain largely unchecked by formal rules. Without greater transparency over lobbying, much of what happens in these groups will remain behind closed doors.”

Blue, Green and Grey

Beyond2050 describes itself as the “leading strategy and political relations agency on hydrogen”, working with “some of the UK’s most innovative hydrogen businesses and entrepreneurs”.

The website makes no mention of gas, though gas companies make up half of its clients featured in the ‘Hydrogen Zone’. They include gas distributors Cadent, SGN, Wales & West Utilities and Northern Gas Networks, British Gas owner Centrica, Britain’s gas network owner National Gas, and gas boiler manufacturer Baxi. 

All these companies became Beyond2050 clients this year, according to the UK’s main lobbying registers, despite growing concerns over the use of hydrogen to replace gas in heating. At present neither the UN’s leading climate body the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) or the UK’s climate change committee see a major role for hydrogen in decarbonising homes.

Nearly a quarter of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions (22 percent) come from heat in buildings. Experts say insulation along with the installation of electricity-powered heat pumps are the safest, most energy efficient way to heat homes – and up to three times cheaper than using hydrogen.

The UK government is due to make a decision in 2026 on whether to allow ‘hydrogen-ready’ boilers. However, in July then energy secretary Grant Shapps cast doubt over whether hydrogen will ever be a viable form of heating. The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has not yet responded to DeSmog’s request for an update.

In a statement to DeSmog, a Beyond2050 spokesperson said the company “work[s] with companies that are also solely focused on the production of green hydrogen, as well as others across the hydrogen value chain”. Clients working solely on green hydrogen to decarbonise industrial processes include JCB, Ryze and Johnson Matthey. 

Producing ‘green’ hydrogen involves using electrolysis powered by solar and wind to split water and create the final product, and is widely seen as an important way to decarbonise industrial processes where it is hard to avoid greenhouse gas emissions. However, it is more scarce, expensive and energy intensive than other forms of hydrogen. As a result, ‘grey’ fossil-based hydrogen made with natural gas or coal makes up 96 percent of existing supplies globally.

A Beyond2050 spokesperson said those participating in the zone “represent the breadth of the UK’s hydrogen industry and include hydrogen production, hydrogen transportation, storage and mobility, as well as those working on hydrogen for heat”.

Carla Denyer, co-leader of the Green Party, told DeSmog: “There is a role for green hydrogen in a zero-carbon future but given supplies will remain limited for the foreseeable future, it’s a very small and specific role.

“In particular, hydrogen must be kept out of our homes. It is a highly inefficient and expensive method of heating.”

‘Across The Value Chain’

The ‘Hydrogen Zone’ has advertised a networking drinks with “key politicians”, open to “all those interested in the UK’s hydrogen industry”, according to the weekly HY Newsnewsletter circulated by Beyond2050.

“As a reminder, last year Prime Minister Liz Truss attended the zone for a private drinks reception at Conservatives,” says one newsletter, which was sent on 8 September. 

The email notes that Alan Whitehead, Shadow Secretary for Energy Security and Net Zero, and Bill Esterson, Shadow Business Minister, were also present at the “informal drinks” held last year at Labour’s Hydrogen Zone.

HY Newsalso reported extensively on the Labour reshuffle in early September, concluding that the current line-up may become senior government figures. The next general election is due to take place next year, with a vote predicted for sometime around May.

“This reshuffle matters because a large proportion of the shadow ministers in these roles today would become ministers in a Starmer administration,” Beyond2050’s Director Rob Dale wrote. 

He added that this meant they now had “a suitable amount of time to develop their plans for government, meaning the coming months are a key timeframe for the hydrogen industry to engage with the Labour Party”.

Insights into policy-making is a specialty of the company, whose claim that its team has worked “at the highest levels of politics” appears to be well-founded.

Policy and strategy director Rita Wadey led the development of the UK’s government’s Hydrogen Strategy before taking a position at Beyond2050 in April 2022. In July, she left the company to start a new position as hydrogen strategic advisor at the National Grid.

The UK hydrogen strategy, which doubled in ambition last year to deliver 10GW of domestic production by 2030, involves a “twin-tracked” approach of promoting both renewables-powered ‘green’ hydrogen and ‘blue’ hydrogen, where the emissions from fossil hydrogen are stored and captured underground.

But ‘blue’ hydrogen is also controversial. A 2022 report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) found its  production in the UK to be risky, ineffective, and to offer a poor financial investment.

The Labour Party was asked by DeSmog to clarify its plans for hydrogen in the UK’s decarbonisation, but had not responded by the time of publication.

Major Hydrogen Presence

DeSmog reported last week that a number of oil and gas firms are set to be present at the Conservative Party conference, including Beyond2050 clients Cadent, National Gas and Centrica.

National Gas will also be hosting an event at the Labour Party conference on October 9 with the New Statesman, titled: “Stronger, Fairer, Greener: How Can Hydrogen Protect Industry, Create Jobs and Power Us to Net Zero?” Bill Esterson, shadow business minister, will be speaking on the panel.

Trade association Hydrogen UK and Ineos also have exhibitor stands at both conferences. Petrochemicals company Ineos has pivoted towards hydrogen – which it describes as a  “game-changing source of energy that can be used as both a raw material for industry and as a power source for transport and the home”.

Oil and gas major BP, which joined Beyond2050 as a client in March this year, also has a stand at the Conservatives conference. According to the conference agenda, the company will demonstrate how it is “in action on the challenge… transforming Teesside and tackling emissions with CCS and hydrogen”. BP is currently consulting on its proposal for H2Teesside. The planned project with UAE state-owned company Adnoc aims to be one of the biggest blue hydrogen production facilities in the UK.

In a statement to DeSmog, Rob Dale quoted Chris Stark, the chief executive of the Climate Change Committee, who tweeted earlier this year that hydrogen would play “an absolutely essential role in the 2035 energy system”.

“We work with businesses who are seeking to achieve this aim,” Dale said, adding that: “Conference delegates will be able to speak with industry about all aspects of the Government’s UK Hydrogen Strategy.” 

However, campaigners say the promotion of certain types of hydrogen could be a “dangerous distraction” from solutions needed to decarbonise and increase energy security.

“Hydrogen for home heating has become the emperor’s new clothing for the oil and gas industry,” said Alice Harrison, fossil fuels campaign lead at Global Witness. “It is a thinly veiled attempt for these companies to stay profitable, and to carry on polluting while pretending to be green.”

The hydrogen lobby often used public affairs firms backed by significant fossil fuel money to achieve their aims, Harrison said.

“It’s a classic tactic straight from the fossil fuel playbook that risks eroding our democracy,” she said. “Our decision-makers should be wary of lobbyists who come bearing gifts and promise the world.”

Original article by Phoebe Cooke and Hazel Healy republished from DeSmog.

Continue ReadingHydrogen Lobby Sets Sights On Labour Party

Major Polluters In ‘Ludicrous’ Push For Carbon Capture at Party Conferences

Original article by Adam Barnett and Rachel Sherrington republished from DeSmog.

The technology could provide cover for fossil fuel companies to explore more oil and gas drilling, campaigners say.

By Adam Barnett and Rachel Sherrington on Sep 29, 2023 @ 05:14 PDT

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer. Credit: DeSmog via UK Parliament (CC BY 3.0)
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer. Credit: DeSmog via UK Parliament (CC BY 3.0)

A trade group for contested carbon capture with close ties to major oil and gas companies is sponsoring over a dozen events at the Conservative and Labour conferences over the next fortnight. 

Fossil fuel companies are using the technology as “a fig leaf” to pursue oil and gas drilling, campaigners have warned, as industry lobbyists across the energy sector seek to win over policymakers.

The Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA), a trade body promoting carbon capture utilisation and storage (CCUS), is due to host 15 events across the Conservative and Labour gatherings, which begin on Sunday in Manchester.

The London-based CCSA describes itself as the “lead” European organisation for CCUS, promoting the “rapid” and “commercial” deployment of the technology. The process involves capturing CO2 emissions from industrial production and storing it underground. Some technologies allow the captured CO2 to be re-used by converting it into plastics, concrete or biofuel. 

The group says that its members are “companies across the CCUS industry” including “support services in the energy sector” such as law, banking and consultancy.  

Nearly a fifth of the CCSA’s 100 members are oil and gas companies, including BP, Exxon, Shell and Equinor. Fossil fuels are the largest contributor to climate change, producing 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions.

The CCSA board is also dominated by key figures at oil and gas companies, including BP, Equinor, TotalEnergies and Shell. 

Lorne Stockman, research co-director at the campaign group Oil Change International, told DeSmog: “It’s very clear what carbon capture serves and who it’s a solution for, and that’s the fossil fuel industry. 

“This isn’t about the best way of addressing the climate crisis, it’s about keeping the industry in business.”

He said the companies were trying to hedge their bets by winning over both the Conservatives and Labour, in the hope of continued government funding to support the high infrastructure costs.

“They pay both parties as much as they can,” said Stockman. “They’ve got the resources, they’ve got the money, they’ve got the influence, and of course they’re showing up to ensure that the fossil fuel industry continues to get public support even while we try to confront the climate emergency.”

Carbon capture and storage, and the extension of the technology, CCUS, has been touted by major polluters as a way to cut their production emissions to meet climate targets. 

But the role of carbon capture in the energy transition is hotly contested. Climate scientists point to the failure of CCS to remove significant amounts of CO2 emissions while campaigners warn of the high costs compared to renewable energy. The vast majority of companies use the captured CO2 to extract more oil through a process called “enhanced oil recovery”.

A DeSmog analysis published this week found the majority of large-scale global CCS projects have spectacularly failed to deliver what they promised, overran budgets and targets, and resulted in a net increase in emissions.

A CCSA spokesperson told DeSmog: “We are proud to bring a wide variety of our members to party conferences this year to engage with politicians, delegates and the media on the vital role carbon capture and storage technology will play in the net zero transition. 

“This technology will ensure industry can continue to support jobs making critical products such as steel and cement in the UK, rather than importing them from abroad, as well as creating 70,000 new jobs in green industries. 

“Carbon capture technology will be an important part of the solution, alongside reducing energy use and rolling out renewable electricity as we all work together to reach net zero.”

Fossil Fuel Presence

The UK government has committed £20 billion of investment for carbon capture and storage over the next 20 years, and aims to capture and store 20-30 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030 and over 50 million by 2035. 

The “CCUS Investor Roadmap”, updated this year, sets out plans to deliver four CCUS “low-carbon” industrial clusters by 2030, and capture and store nine million tonnes of CO2 from industrial CCS by 2035.

Despite well-documented concerns over carbon capture, industry executives will look to increase the government’s commitments further and showcase its “key role in decarbonising industry”, when they join the Conservatives in Manchester next week, and Labour in Liverpool later in the month. 

Experts and MPs – yet to be named – have been invited to the group’s ticketed drinks receptions, while a number of talks are dedicated to promoting the technology as a crucial part of the UK’s “green industrial revolution”.

“Our politics are shot through with oil and gas lobbyists, it’s just at party conferences they come into the light a little bit more,” Tessa Khan, executive director of fossil fuel campaign group Uplift, told DeSmog.

“This is a ludicrous amount of special pleading for a technology, carbon capture and storage, that, on the current trajectory, will play a marginal role in reducing industrial emissions and at worst is a fig leaf for more oil and gas drilling.”

The CCSA reception in Liverpool at the Labour Party conference will feature food, drinks and speeches from industry leaders, with members of the shadow cabinet expected to attend.

Doug Parr, chief scientist and policy director at Greenpeace, told DeSmog that CCS “has been used and continues to be used as a cover for fossil fuel exploitation”. 

“If the CCS crew are out and about at party conferences, one has to have a suspicion, given the number of fossil fuel industries that continue to be involved with them, that that’s what’s being attempted in the UK”, he said. 

Board Members and Political Influence

Individuals from the fossil fuel industries are well represented on the CCSA board, as well as the group’s membership. 

Oil and gas companies TotalEnergies, Wintershall Dea, Uniper, Phillips 66 UK, Neptune Energy and Eni are also members of the CCSA, alongside Drax, the UK’s single largest emitter of CO2. Drax is seeking an estimated £31.7 billion in subsidies for its proposed biomass energy carbon capture and storage (BECCS) plant, which is being trialled in its CCUS “incubation area” in North Yorkshire.

The CCSA board is also dominated by career oil and gas executives who have spent decades working in the industry.

Chair of the CCSA, Jonathan Briggs, is director of a CCS project run by Vitol, a Dutch multinational energy and commodity company which trades oil, gas and coal. Briggs works on the “Humber Zero” project to decarbonise VPI Power’s Combined Cycle Gas Turbine in Immingham, North Lincolnshire.

The board includes Rowaa Ahmar, group head of public affairs, policy and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) at biomass company Drax, the UK’s largest single emitter of CO2. 

Other board members include Graeme Davies, a project director at Harbour Energy; Shirley Oliveira, vice president for hydrogen and CCUS advisory services at BP; Dan Sadler, UK vice president for low carbon solutions at Equinor; Gaël Le Parc, UK CCS director for TotalEnergies; and Steve Schofield, head of climate and carbon policy and advocacy at the corporate relations department of Shell. 

The CCSA also has political connections. CCSA president, Baroness Liddell, was a Labour minister under former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Joe Butler-Trewin, CCSA’s Public Affairs and Communications Officer in London, worked on Keir Starmer’s 2020 campaign for the Labour leadership. 

The Conservative and Labour parties did not respond when contacted for comment. 

Original article by Adam Barnett and Rachel Sherrington republished from DeSmog.

Continue ReadingMajor Polluters In ‘Ludicrous’ Push For Carbon Capture at Party Conferences

Questions for climate denier and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak

Extinction Rebellion NL image reads STOP FOSSIELE SUBSIDIES
Extinction Rebellion NL image reads STOP FOSSIELE SUBSIDIES

I’ll return to Rishi Sunak being a climate denier – there’s not much worse you can say about someone is there? totally divorced from reality? able to simply deny scientific argument? It’s really disappointing in a prime minister since they’re supposed to be responsible and dependable.

I’m not the first to call Sunak a climate denier – it’s good to see that Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has beaten me to it.

So my first question to climate denier Rishi Sunak is why is he intending to massively subsidize the proposed Rosebank oil and gas field instead of massively subsidizing my energy bill? If he subsidized my energy bill to the same extent, my monthly bill would be reduced from £110 to £10 so why is he financing Norwayians more than UKians?

More questions to follow

Continue ReadingQuestions for climate denier and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak