The Avatar of the Fossil Fuel Industry

I finally got around to reading Private Empire this summer.  (You know how it is:  a bazillion books, papers, articles and every other doggone thing on your reading list.)  I’ve been reading Steve Coll’s stuff in The New Yorker for years.  He’s the dean of the J-school at Columbia.

Private Empire, to a certain extent, follows in the footsteps of The Prize, Dan Yergin’s Homeric saga in which he recounts “the Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power.”  But Yergin’s book is a historic and geographic sweep of the oil industry while Coll’s book zeroes in on ExxonMobil, the company with the second-highest revenues in the world, $453 billion, in 2012 when the book came out.  They dropped to eighth by 2018 with $290 billion in revenues. Continue reading


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Connecting the Dots on Oil – Iran, Trump, and the Kochs

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

I wrote here almost a year ago that “It’s the fossil fuels, stupid.”  We, the people, suffer, of course, from Trump Inc.’s self-serving, kleptocratic impulses, manifest in his executive agencies, with the full complicity of that wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America, the Republicans in Congress, aided and abetted by the reactionary majority on SCOTUS.  But if there’s a guiding force behind the greed, the racism, the sheer vileness of the behavior, indeed the treason of these mutants, it’s fossil fuels.  More precisely, it’s the money generated by the fossil fuels. Continue reading


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“It’s the fossil fuels, stupid.”

James Carville, one of the sharper Democratic consultants to come around in several generations, reminded Bill Clinton’s campaign staff that among the three things on which they needed to focus one was:   “The Economy, Stupid.”  This morphed into the expression “It’s the economy, stupid.”  It has become abundantly clear that the message of the present White House administration, along with their Republican party enablers and a few Democrats from fossil fuel-dependent states (like Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota), is that “It’s the fossil fuels, stupid.” Continue reading


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Finally, A Small But Significant Victory, Courtesy of the Senate

Yes – and it was about bloody time – the Senate finally held up at least a small part of its bargain with the American people: to protect the public health and the environment.

First, a little context: What you see on the left is the flaring of natural gas from oil rigs, in this case in Iraq.  It is a problem all over the world though. Flaring is but one part of the problem of how “fugitive” natural gas greatly exacerbates the climate crisis.   There is an awful lot of anthropogenically produced methane in the world that escapes into the atmosphere every year: about 7.13 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013 according to the excellent Climate Access Indicators Tool (CAIT) of the World Resources Institute.  That was about 15% of the total of all the greenhouse gases produced that year, including those from land use changes like deforestation. Continue reading


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KXL – RIP

Obama rejects KXL

It’s been a few months since I’ve been on the air.  There is absolutely no better news I could come off my sabbatical with than that the Keystone XL pipeline project is dead. President Obama this morning announced the US rejection of the application.  There is enormous significance in this on several levels: Continue reading


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Great Minds Against Tar Sands Development

before and after tar sandsI am sorry to say I’ve been off the air for too many weeks.  It’s been a busy Spring, culminating in a week-long trip to Berlin with my graduate students to take a live and in-color look at German clean tech.  I will be following up here with some reporting on that.  Great stuff!  Stay tuned.  Plus there’s other news on which I will add my two cents, including the recent G7 talks and the upcoming encyclical from Pope Francis. Continue reading


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Peak Carbon?

Well, maybe not Peak Carbon yet, but it was a pretty hopeful signal that the International Energy Agency sent on March 13th in announcing Global energy-related emissions of carbon dioxide stalled in 2014.  The IEA noted “…that efforts to mitigate climate change may be having a more pronounced effect on emissions than had previously been thought.” Continue reading


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Norway Gets It! Deutsche Bank Gets It!

end of fossil fuelsAl Gore called them “subprime carbon assets.”  More and more banks, companies, countries, pension funds, universities, churches, and many others are beginning to understand the considerable investment risks in the constellations of fossil fuel companies.  The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), the world’s biggest and most efficient sovereign wealth fund, last week jettisoned 32 coal mining companies, 5 tar sand producers, 2 cement companies and 1 coal-based electricity generator from its $850 billion portfolio.  The Guardian quotes a GPFG rep here:  “Our risk-based approach means that we exit sectors and areas where we see elevated levels of risk to our investments in the long term.” Continue reading


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Keystone → Veto

KXL rally NYC outside Koch theatreI went to a cool little rally last evening here in New York City.  We were standing across from the David H. Koch theater at Lincoln Center to say “No!” to the KXL.  We were there, of course, because the Koch Brothers have been the principal funders in recent years of any number of reactionary organizations, including Americans for Prosperity and ALEC, not to mention the Tea Party itself.  Of course, they have a serious vested interest in the Canadian tar sands.  By the time I left, we had a good 200 or so people out on a cold night.  The excellent folks at 350NYC organized the rally and we knew that there were scores more across the country at the same time. Continue reading


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Demand Destruction

us losing oil addictionWhile we’re waiting for our brothers and sisters in Lima to come up with a template for agreement in Paris next year, here’s a great story from Bloomberg about the demand destruction for oil.  (See my post, “Houston, You’ve Got a Problem,” for some background.)  If we keep on this trajectory for reducing greenhouse gases, an international treaty will be useful, certainly, but not essential. Continue reading


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