The tide is turning on many fronts in the battle against the carbon bullies

Resistance to tar sands pipelines spreading. Tar sands companies mothballing projects. Renewable energy solutions growing

No 1156 Posted by fw, October 1, 2014

“We stand in defense of the land, water, climate and communities against the richest companies on the planet, and a federal and provincial government who are intent on extracting tar sands as quickly as possible regardless of the cost. Working in Alberta, the belly of the tar sands beast, the odds are often overwhelming but, over the past few months, something has changed. The resistance to the tar sands has not only grown in leaps and bounds, it is changing the dynamics of the entire fight.”Mike Hudema

The Battle against the Tar Sands Is About to Change by Mike Hudema, West Coast Native News, September 30, 2014

The fight against the tar sands is a big one.

We stand in defense of the land, water, climate and communities against the richest companies on the planet, and a federal and provincial government who are intent on extracting tar sands as quickly as possible regardless of the cost.

Working in Alberta, the belly of the tar sands beast, the odds are often overwhelming but, over the past few months, something has changed.

The resistance to the tar sands has not only grown in leaps and bounds, it is changing the dynamics of the entire fight.

Last week’s massive People’s Climate March in New York that brought over 400,000 people to the streets of New York, led by climate impacted and Indigenous communities, was just one of many signs of hope that are starting to emerge.

People are standing up to the largest carbon bullies on the planet and we are starting to win.

Here are just a few of the inspiring highlights:

We are winning the major tar sands pipeline fights (not just one, but all of them!)

  • Northern Gateway: Harper may have approved the Northern Gateway tarsands pipeline but it’s never going to be built. The B.C. government doesn’t want it. There may be a B.C.-wide referendum on it. There is a litany of First Nation lawsuits against it. This pipeline is a dead man walking. Even investors think so which is why Enbridge’s share price dropped the two days after there was approval to build it. This pipeline simply won’t happen.
  • Kinder Morgan: This is another big battle but the signs are good we are going to win this one too. The mayor of Burnaby and the mayor of Vancouver are against it and the First Nation opposition is intensifying as well. With the recent Supreme Court decision strengthening First Nation rights to land and title, the future for the Kinder Morgan pipeline doesn’t look good and the City of Burnaby just got an initial victory stopping Kinder Morgan’s surveying operation dead in their tracks.
  • Line 9: Line 9 was dealt a major blow by the city council of South Portland, Maine, the port that Line 9 was hoping to export its tar sands oil to. The council voted six-to-one to ban tar sands oil from its port. This means line 9 has no outlet to the ocean! The City of Montreal also recently came out and said it doesn’t support the project.
  • Keystone XL: This has been a big, lengthy battle but the signs are (knock on wood), if we keep up the pressure, President Obama will deny the project after the U.S. midterms in November. This would be another huge victory so be prepared to party down in Nebraska.
  • Energy East: This proposed tar sands pipeline is just getting started. As the pipeline slowly moves through the process, the opposition to it is getting bigger. The fact this pipeline would stretch from Alberta to New Brunswick means we have a roadmap of resistance to unite people right across Canada who would rather have a clean energy future than a tar sands nightmare.

Growing opposition is already having huge effects not just in protecting communities and the environment from the problems pipelines and/or tankers pose. It’s also hitting the tar sands beast at the source as well. Here are a few examples:

  • Just a few days ago Norwegian owned StatOil mothballed its Corner tar sands project. The multibillion dollar project would have produced 806-million barrels of bitumen and have emitted 482-million metric tons CO2 by 2050, equivalent to one year’s emissions from 101.4-million passenger vehicles. The reasons Statoil gave for the shelving were rising production costs and lack of pipeline capacity.
  • A few months ago, because of how much we are collectively kicking ass on the pipeline front, Total also had to mothball its 11-billion dollar Jocelyn tar sands mine project.

Total and StatOil are not the only ones feeling the hurt.

  • Sunshine oil has had to put its tar sands project on hold because of a drop in investment.
  • Sinopec is also considering backing out of its Northern Lights tar sands project. Check out this incredibly honest quote from an anonymous source within Sinopec, Sinopec “is having trouble with Northern Lights like everybody else. You can’t throw money into a black hole forever.”
  • CNRL is having problems as the recent review into its four ongoing spills showed that their method of extraction was the culprit. This means — at a minimum — that CNRL will have much fewer barrels of tar sands coming out of its operations this year and could have much broader implications for the future of in-situ if we can ramp things up.

While pipelines are being plugged, and projects are being cancelled real solutions are being implemented all over the world:

  • Last week the Rockefeller brothers announced that, together with 49 other foundations, they would be divesting over 50-billion dollars of fossil fuel investment and shift it to clean energy sources.
  • In May, 74 per cent of Germany’s power needs were generated from renewables. That fact alone shows just what’s possible. The 250,000 people Germany employs in its solar PV sector also shows the employment benefits that come from renewable investments. Germany is not alone.
  • The EU has ruled that each country in Europe has to have 30 per cent renewable energy.
  • Bangladesh is installing nearly two new rooftop PV systems every minute – making it the most rapidly growing market for PV in the world.
  • India’s newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an incredible plan to use solar to supply electricity to over 400-million Indians who currently don’t have it.
  • In the U.S., the vast majority of new electricity is coming from renewables. California and Texas already set solar power records this year. As the price of solar continues to drop, coal fired power plants are being closed. As a show of their commitment to real solutions Keystone XL opponents have built a solar powered barn right in Keystone’s path and have begun re-planting sacred Ponca corn, both as a solution and another sign of just how strong the Cowboy Indian alliance really is.

In Canada, solutions are also starting to take root even without any federal government support.

  • Ontario has emerged as a real solar champion. Ontario’s feed-in tariff has spurred solar investment and propelled the province to be one of North America’s leaders.
  • Despite the Alberta governments tar sands blinders, things are also starting to change here. Fort Chipewyan, one of the communities most heavily hurt by the tar sands, has started investing in solar. Their first panels went up two weeks ago.

It is still a huge fight ahead with fires blazing on many fronts, but we are doing amazing things and gaining a lot of ground on some of the biggest carbon crooks on the planet.

So take heart. The battles are big but, together, with love and courage, we can turn the tide and in many ways we already are. We are writing the future and it will be beautiful. We just need to keep up the pressure to get it here.

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The year is circa 2393. A historian narrator living in China recounts the events that led to the Great Collapse of Western Civilization

Such is the premise of a fascinating new book — The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

No 1155 Posted by fw, September 30, 2014

This post features two excerpts from the book, a citation and brief note about the contents, note about the authors, and link to a Mother Jones’ review of the book

Excerpt 1 — From the book’s Introduction

Front pageThe occasion is the tercentenary of the end of Western Culture (1540-2093); the dilemma being addressed is how we – the children of the Enlightenment – failed to act on robust information about climate change and knowledge of the damaging events that were about to unfold. Our historian concludes that a second Dark Age had fallen on Western civilization, in which denial and self-deception, rooted in an ideological fixation on “free” markets, disabled the world’s powerful nations in the face of tragedy. Moreover, the scientists who best understand the problem were hamstrung by their own cultural practices, which demanded an excessively stringent standard for accepting claims of any kind – even those involving imminent threats. Here, our future historian, living in the Second People’s Republic of China, recounts the events of the Period of the Penumbra* (1988-2093) that led to the Great Collapse and Mass Migration (2073-2093). (pp. ix-x)

*penumbra – the period when a dark shadow fell over Earth


Excerpt 2 — Definition of capitalism from the book’s Lexicon of Archaic Terms – “archaic” because the narrative is set 300 years in the future

capitalism – A form of socioeconomic organization that dominated Western Europe and North America from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries, in which the means of production and distribution of goods and services were owned either by individuals or by government-chartered legal entities called “corporations”. Typically these entities were operated for-profit, with the surplus value produced by workers funneled to owners, managers, and “investors”, third parties who owned “stock” in a company but had liability neither for its debts nor its social consequences. The separation of work from ownership produced a concentration of wealth amongst a tiny elite, who could then purchase more favorable laws and regulations from their host governments. One popular notion about capitalism of the period was than it operated through a process of creative destruction. Ultimately, capitalism was paralyzed in the face of the rapid climate destabilization it drove, destroying itself. (p. 54)


Citation and note about the contents

The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, Columbia University Press, 2014

The book’s four chapters and epilogue are a meagre 52 pages. The other 40 pages include: Acknowledgements, Introduction, Lexicon of Archaic Terms, Interview with the Authors, Notes, and About the Authors.


About the authors

Naomi Oreskes is Professor of History and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego, and Adjunct Professor of Geosciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Her publications include The Rejection of Continental Drift: Theory and Method in American Earth Science (1999), Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (with Erik M. Conway, 2010), and Science on a Mission: American Oceanography from the Cold War to Climate Change (forthcoming). Her latest project is Assessing Assessments: A Historical and Philosophical Study of Scientific Assessments for Environmental Policy in the Late 20th Century (with Dale Jamieson and Michael Oppenheimer).

Erik M. Conway is a historian of science and technology based in Pasadena, California. His publications include Blind Landings: Low-Visibility Operations in American Aviation, 1918–1958 (2006),Atmospheric Science at NASA: A History (2008), and Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming (with Naomi Oreskes, 2010).


Mother Jones’ Review of the Book

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BC municipal leaders, acting in concert, press provincial and federal governments to put environment ahead of economy

Vancouver, Victoria, Burnaby resolutions target Kinder Morgan and National Energy Board over pipelines

No 1154 Posted by fw, September 29, 2014

It is so refreshing to see this burst of municipal activism, to see BC cities acting in concert to pressure big oil, the BC provincial government and the fed’s National Energy Board to put the environment ahead of the economy for once.

Click on the following linked title to read the original account of municipal activism. Alternatively, below is a significantly revised version with added subheadings and text highlighting.

Cities rising: B.C. municipal leaders demand a bigger say over oil pipelines, by Mychaylo Prystupa, Vancouver Observer, September 27, 2014

A convention of B.C. municipal leaders in Whistler this week revealed a new wave of local government activism against Kinder Morgan and the National Energy Board. One visible sign of rising local government activism against oil pipeline projects from Alberta was on municipal leaders’ wrists: a simple blue band.

Michelle Bell CouncillorMany like Duncan city councillor Michelle Bell wore one. “People aren’t feeling heard and included in the [NEB] process.  If we have an [oil spill] disaster, it’s something we cannot reverse,” said the Vancouver Island politician.

Their worry is the federal government’s new faster, streamlined process — for approving oil sands pipelines like the Trans Mountain expansion project — is not responding to their constituents’ concerns.

Vancouver city councillor Heather Deal, who is also a biologist, is concerned Kinder Morgan hasn’t made the case for proper spill clean-ups in freshwater eco-systems. “Most oil floats – bitumen doesn’t.  It sinks,” said Deal.

[Michelle Bell], along with leaders of other heavy weight communities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Victoria – supported UBCM motions aimed squarely against Kinder Morgan and the National Energy Board.

The blue [wristband] ribbons – which were embossed with the Latin phrase Intra Vires meaning “within our jurisdiction” – was a way to identify supporters of these motions.

“So that’s what you see around the conference – mayors and councillors from across B.C. wearing blue [wristbands] just to indicate their support for Burnaby, Vancouver and Victoria,” said Kai Nagata, with the Dogwood Initiative that created the wristbands.

[NGOs] West Coast Environmental Law and the Georgia Straight Alliance also supported the effort.

Resolutions from Vancouver, Victoria and Burnaby passed

  • “So the City of Vancouver [motion said] that we need to have the appropriate prevention and emergency response requirements in place for bitumen that submerges and sinks.”
  • Likewise, a City of Victoria motion suggested it had lost confidence in the NEB, and wants the province to restore its own environmental reviews of pipelines.
  • And Burnaby – fresh off a legal win Thursday that put Kinder Morgan’s test drilling on Burnaby Mountain on hold – [Burnaby’s motion] demanded that the NEB’s public hearings be changed. Mayor Derek Corrigan said the pipeline reviews need to once again allow citizens to have oral hearings and cross examinations – not just written letters of comment. “I think everyone is worried that the [NEB] process doesn’t deliver a suitable opportunity to get all of the evidence out about what are the faults and flaws in the Kinder Morgan application,” said Mayor Derek Corrigan at the convention.

But some leaders were irritated by this new wave of municipal government activism on pipelines.

“I’m just not sure this is the appropriate forum,” said North Cowichan Councillor Al Siebring.

“As municipal politicians, we are mandated to deal with municipal issues….water, sewage, garbage, roads. We run the danger of becoming a social pressure group, and that is not what UBCM is set up for, and that’s not what we’re here for – we’re here to deal with municipal issues.”

Burnaby’s resolution to ask NEB to reject Kinder Morgan pipeline application falls short

Earlier in the week at the convention, Burnaby had also proposed a much bolder resolution – asking local governments to support its call to ask the NEB to throw out Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline application entirely, as too risky for dense urban environments.

But in the closest of margins, it was defeated – 50.7 per cent opposed, to 49.3 per cent supporting, in a vote that required an electronic re-count.

Many interior B.C. leaders, like the Mayor of Kamloops, said they support Kinder Morgan.

“I don’t share the same concerns about the Kinder Morgan pipeline that Burnaby does,” said Mayor Peter Milobar Friday. “They’ve been a good corporate entity in our community for 60 years.  Never had an issue with them.  And I think you’ll find that on the vast majority [of communities] along the pipeline. If we want to talk about the effects of a pipeline spill, why are we not including the rail companies in that conversation?”

BC Premier Christy Clark sees economic benefits, Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan sees environmental costs

Even [BC] Premier Christy Clark – in a speech that exalted the benefits of resource development that urbanites sometimes forget – appeared to take a swipe at Burnaby’s mayor.

“We also should understand that in Burnaby we depend on the resource sector for our very survival,” said Clark in her remarks at the close of the convention.

For his part, Mayor Corrigan said:

“There’s kind of a resigned acceptance that whatever happens, these companies are going to be moving their oil – pipeline, or rail, or by tanker truck – that come hell or high water that oil is coming through. That kind of resigned acceptance is not something I’m prepared to do.”

Kinder Morgan Canada was requested to make comment on this story late Friday.  We will update this story, when they do.

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