In one of the most uninspiring and regressive budgets ever, the Morrison Government, among other backward moves, has continued its eye-watering bolstering of the fossil fuel industry, throwing good public money after bad policy. There is little doubt that if this Coalition Government had been in power when it was discovered that the Earth was a sphere, it would have held on to the flat Earth theory, fervently ridiculing all evidence to the contrary. This is because, in all likelihood, it would already have invested in exorbitantly priced tours to find the ends of the planet and then provided tax breaks for the shonky tour operators.
It’s not entirely Scott Morrison’s fault that he managed to look like a dissembling idiot at President Joe Biden’s leader’s summit on climate change last week. He probably hasn’t read a word of the science about global warming and the grim future that awaits his children and grandchildren. That’s not an excuse, but it tells us the scientists and bureaucrats who advise him and other politicians have been falling down badly on their jobs. Those people who actually know what’s going on have allowed themselves to be intimidated by Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch and their bullies, who in turn have been collaborators in the crime of the century.
In any other universe, recovering from one public health crisis by worsening another would spark immediate backlash. An “asbestos led recovery” would be career-ending; as would a “tobacco led recovery” or a “AK-47 led recovery”. But fossil fuels have locked their harm so deeply into our lives that we have become desensitised to this incredible, radical significance of proposing to hurt humans as a pathway to helping them. What is happening here is simultaneously deadly and ludicrous. (Ketan Joshi Renew Economy).Stop the lies, Morrison. Your gas-led recovery is a toxic sham. – » The Australian Independent Media Network
Motives behind the Coalition’s intention to build a gas-fired power plant appear to be driven by ties to fossil fuel power companies, writes Richard Gillies.Coalition’s gas-fired recovery a benefit to its donors
LNP use Neoliberal Logic (ODT)
Fossil Fuels and Big Tobacco the union of the unwanted join to FIGHT BACK (ODT)
many of our world’s wealthiest look at those fossil fuels and see no danger. They see the present and future source of their personal wealth. A significant chunk of the world’s billionaires owe their billions, directly or indirectly, to extractive industries. Keeping fossil fuels buried would jeopardize those billions, and our super rich have the political power, thanks to their wealth, to insist that we keep extracting.
If we let that wealth and power continue to concentrate, fossil fuels will continue to burn.
The IPCC issued its bleakest report yet this week, saying that without drastic changes, the world doesn’t have a hope of avoiding uncontrollable climate change.
Unless emissions are halved within 12 years and virtually eliminated by 2050, temperature increases will likely exceed 2 degrees Celsius.
Beyond 2 degrees, scientists predict temperature increases may spiral as the climate breaches a series of unique tipping points, such as the melting of the permafrost.
The top culprit is fossil fuels, and the instructions to Australia and the rest of the world are clear: Quit coal by 2050.
The me before we in the crazy Capitalist structure. Free market unregulated competition forces me to oversupply, cause a major problem that then we have to pay and fix. Ergo I can’t lose in that never ending denier’s cycle.(ODT)
“Big Oil is asking tax payers to pay for protecting their refineries from sea level rise that they caused by keeping us addicted to oil? Yeah…no.”
Jon Queally, staff writer
Climate activists across the globe celebrated Thursday after the lower house of the Irish legislature passed a divestment bill with support from all parties, effectively ensuring that Ireland will become the first nation in the world to fully divest public money from the fossil fuel industry.
In an article in today’s Australian, Janet Albrechtsen waxes lyrical about departing boss of the Minerals Council, Brendan Pearson, who she claims was “shoved out of his job as boss of the Minerals Council of Australia by those who prefer feel-good corporate bromides and green myths over energy facts and figures.”These purveyors of “green myths” were, among others, BHP and Rio Tinto who said they had lost confidence in Mr Pearson due to his unstinting advocacy for coal, something Ms Albrechtsen, on the other hand, considers a virtue, Source: Why are we letting the fossil fuel industry make the rules on climate change action? – » The Australian Independent Media Network
China has started “relevant research” but has not yet decided when the ban would come into force.
By James Dyke | (The Conversation) | – – By continuing to delay significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, we …
When world leaders assembled at the G20 Summit in Brisbane last month, the corporation selected by the Australian government to address the G20 and spearhead its “thought leadership forum” was none other than United States coal producer Peabody Energy.
Exhorting governments to address poverty with coal and other fossil fuels, Peabody’s executives had a sure meeting of minds with Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who had made his controversial “coal is our future” comments days earlier.
Less telegraphed in this sphere of “thought leadership” are the impending costs of an industry in decline, and what these costs mean for this country.
Take Peabody itself for instance. In four years, the equity market value of this coal producer – with its huge mines in the NSW Hunter Valley – has fallen from $US17 billion to $US2 billion ($2.46 billion).
On that equity value, Peabody is carrying $US5.5 billion in net debt. While the pension scheme for its management is 90 per cent funded, its retired workers’ pension liabilities of $US735 million are zero funded.
Then there is mine remediation. For Peabody, there are $US713 million in company assessed remediation liabilities against which surety bonds of $568 million are held to cover overall clean-up costs as at December 2013.
Peabody appears better covered than others on this front, though. Throughout Australia, there are tens of thousands of abandoned mine sites left for taxpayers to clean up on a multitude of old companies’ behalf. Some, such as the Mount Morgan goldmine in Queensland, have already cost taxpayers $50 million as toxic sludge contaminated rivers and killed fish 50 kilometres downstream.
The Queensland Auditor-General has put the cost of cleaning up the state’s 15,000 abandoned mines at $1 billion. However, financial analyst Tim Buckley, of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, says the eventual figure could be 10 times higher.
That is just Queensland. Collectively, the other legacy costs in the wake of the biggest resources boom in history and its slather of top-of-cycle acquisitions will surely run into the dozens of billions.
Much will depend on whether the sharp decline in coal prices is structural rather than cyclical. The government and the coal fraternity say it is cyclical, that demand will rebound. There is a good deal of hope factored into this view, hope that appears to also be the basis for the government to provide taxpayer subsidies to back the giant Galilee coal project in Queensland.
Figures out of China last week showed thermal coal consumption fell 2.1 per cent year on year in 2014. Demand for electricity, however, still rose 3.9 per cent, an unassailable indicator that coal is losing significant market share in the battle against cleaner forms of energy. That 6 per cent loss in market share in China alone in one year can be viewed against the 10 per cent growth every year for the first 10 years of this century.
Unfortunately, most of the profits of this boom found their way overseas. The clean-up will be funded at home.
Yet companies such as Peabody Energy continue to fork out dividends for their shareholders while their liabilities are increasingly at risk. This company, as of yesterday, had an Altman Z-Score (global measure of financial distress) of 0.76. It is in distress zone (anything less than 1.81), implying possible bankruptcy in the next two years.
Peabody is in better shape, though, than the Indian coal producers. A research report by IEEFA’s Tim Buckley suggests all three big players in Australia – Adani, GVK and Lanco Infratech (owner of Griffin Coal in WA) – are showing Z-Scores suggesting a real risk of distress.
As described here three months ago, http://www.smh.com.au/business/mining-and-resources/wise-investment-or-fossil-fools-queensland-backs-coal-as-g20-moves-the-game-on-20141117-11odkq.html GVK’s net debts stand at 10 times its market cap.
Its Galilee colleague Adani Mining P/L is an Adani subsidiary with $1 billion in debt, negative shareholders funds, zero revenue and high cash burn with many billions still to spend. It is no wonder the Indians have their arms outstretched for taxpayer subsidies. Unless the coal price bounces substantially, this is not a viable project without state support.
As for the third company, the central subject of Buckley’s report, Lanco Infratech is already a year into a corporate debt restructuring with its many banks.
“The imminent of Lanco Infratech’s Griffin Coal business points to an increasingly urgent need for federal and state government planning to prepare for the economic and social impacts of the structural decline in coal.”
The government of WA is in a bind. It needs Griffin’s thermal coal to fire its grid. While taxpayers are likely to be tapped to prop up yet another distressed mining company, the sheer survival of the mine will render mine remediation a minor issue for future generations to worry about.
“IEEFA notes the absence of any material environmental remediation bond protection at Griffin Coal. West Australian taxpayers could well end up with yet another significant unfunded mine remediation liability”.
The Indian power and infrastructure companies were last to the party. All three bought into Australian coalmining projects in 2011 – the very peak of the boom. All were already excessively leveraged. All three paid big prices with borrowed money. Since then the seaborne price of thermal coal has more than halved.
For its part, Griffin Coal is operating negative cash-flow and struggling even to pay the interest on its $600 million to $800 million in acquisition-related debts. Lanco paid way over the top for Griffin. Rival Chinese group Yancoal acquired the Premier coal asset for $300 million, just after Wesfarmers had spent $90 million on its upgrade. Lanco in contrast paid $750 million for a slightly smaller business that was loss making and in need of capital expenditure.
It paid 2.5 times the price Yancoal paid. Yet Yancoal recently picked up a $240 million subsidy from the WA government. Meanwhile, in Queensland the government is pondering a suite of taxpayer assistance for the Galilee partners: equity funding for the railway, water, dredge and spoil removal and/or a holiday on coal royalties.
Coal is a mature industry and should hardly be a candidate for big taxpayer handouts, especially since it is already a recipient of state largesse in many forms. Governments, however, will come under intense lobbying pressure – especially the threat of job losses – to shield mining companies from tumbling commodity prices.
What is required to protect future generations in this country is a concerted plan to deal with the fallout. There isn’t one. NSW for one does not even properly report remediation liabilities. Eventually, these may be in the tens of billions of dollars so an audit of all environmental liabilities is in order before – should the mining sector fail to regain its former glories – the country is left with a slew of insolvent mining companies and even more thousands of toxic holes in the ground.
A UN report says Australia and just three other nations will not meet their pledge to reduce emissions by 2020
Australia is one of just four nations not on track to meet emissions reduction promises, a UN report has warned, while a US-based research firm has poured scorn on Tony Abbott’s insistence that coal is “good for humanity.”
A report by the UN Environment Programme states that the world should aim to be “carbon neutral” by 2070 at the latest. Exceeding a budget of just 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide would risk “severe, pervasive and in some cases irreversible climate change impacts”.
In an analysis of each signatory to a UN goal to limit global warming to 2C above pre-industrial levels, the report found that just four nations – Australia, Canada, Mexico and the US – needed to do more to meet their respective emissions reduction targets by 2020.
The UNEP analysis finds that Australia is set to emit 710 million tonnes of CO2 in 2020. This is well above the 555 million tonnes it would emit if it were to meet a goal of a 5% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020, based on 2000 levels.
The report notes that Australia’s Coalition government has “replaced carbon-pricing mechanism with Emissions Reduction Fund. This results in an increase in projected emissions for 2020.”
After scrapping carbon pricing in July, emissions have risen in Australia, reversing a previous downward trend.
The replacement Direct Action policy, which the government claims will be more effective and a lesser burden on cost of living pressures, will start voluntary payments to businesses to reduce emissions from the first quarter next year. Independent analysis has cast doubt on whether Direct Action will meet the 5% emissions reduction goal.
The UNEP said countries could slash emissions through renewable energy and energy efficiency while maintaining economic growth.
Achim Steiner, executive director of UNEP, said there are “many synergies between development and climate change mitigation goals.
“Linking development policies with climate mitigation will help countries build the energy-efficient, low-carbon infrastructures of the future and achieve transformational change that echoes the true meaning of sustainable development.”
In October, Abbott said coal was “good for humanity” because it would be used to lift millions of people out of poverty, In subsequent G20 talks, Abbott reportedly told international leaders he was “standing up for coal”.
This position was directly challenged at the launch of the UNEP report in Washington DC. Andrew Steer, president of US development research organisation World Resources Institute, said Australia was wrong to view fossil fuels as the way to boost economic growth.
Steer said better technology and more efficient uses of resources were the best paths to alleviate poverty, claiming that US$19tn would be invested in renewable energy globally over the next 15 years. “We can’t afford not to do it; the economic imperative is to act,” Steer said.
The report presents just the latest climate change headache for the government. Julie Bishop, the foreign minister, has spoken out against a speech made by US president Barack Obama over the threat posed by climate change to the Great Barrier Reef.
In an apparent contradiction of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the government’s own Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Bishop said the reef was not in danger and that a decline in water quality had been reversed.
Mark Butler, Labor’s environment spokesman, said the UNEP report was evidence that the Direct Action climate policy wouldn’t work.
“Tony Abbott is taking Australia backwards, while the rest of the world moves forward,” he said. “The United Nations report demonstrates that under the carbon price mechanism, Australia’s carbon pollution reductions reduced by 7% – for the first time in history.
“World leaders, including some of Australia’s largest trading partners, have pledged to increase their emissions reduction targets. Tony Abbott would rather pay polluters to pollute and keep his head in the sand.”
A leaked tape from an oil and gas industry conference shows how Big Carbon uses dirty tricks to undermine science, vilify its critics and discredit journalists who criticise the use of fossil fuels, writes Sharon Kelly via DeSmogBlog.
Leave it to Washington’s top attack-dog lobbyist Richard Berman to verify what many always suspected: that the oil and gas industry uses dirty tricks to undermine science, vilify its critics and discredit journalists who cast doubt on the prudence of fossil fuels.
In a speech at an industry conference in June, surreptitiously recorded by an energy executive, Rick Berman ‒ the foremost go-to guy for Republican smear campaigns ‒ gave unusually candid advice to a meeting of drilling companies.
“Think of this as an endless war,” he told executives in a speech, which was leaked to the New York Times by an attendee at the conference who was offended by Berman’s remarks. “And you have to budget for it.”
He said the industry needs to dig up embarrassing tidbits about environmentalists and liberal celebrities, exploit the public’s short attention span for scientific debate, and play on people’s emotions:
“Fear and anger have to be a part of this campaign. We’re not going to get people to like the oil and gas industry over the next few months.”
Berman also advised that executives continue to spend big:
“I think $2 to $3 million would be a game changer. We’ve had six-figure contributions to date from a few companies in this room to help us get to where we are.”
But always cover your tracks, he suggested, adding that no-one is better equipped at doing so than his firm:
“We run all this stuff through non-profit organisations that are insulated from having to disclose donors. There is total anonymity. People don’t know who supports us. We’ve been doing this for 20-something years in this regard.”
Berman, whose tobacco ties were profiled yesterday by DeSmog contributor John Mashey, is the founder and chief executive of the Washington-based Berman & Company consulting firm. He attended the conference in Colorado, hat in hand, looking to raise money from energy companies for an advertising and public relations campaign he started called Big Green Radicals.
The campaign has already placed a series of intentionally controversial advertisements in Pennsylvania and Colorado, heavy drilling states. The firm has also paid to place its media campaign on websites aimed at national and Washington D.C. audiences.
The event where Berman spoke was held in Colorado Springs and was sponsored by lobby group Western Energy Alliance.
The crowd included executives from drilling firms like Chesapeake Energy and EnCana Oil and Gas, along with energy services companies like Halliburton, industry trade associations, law firms and banks, according to a scheduled attendee list also provided to The Times.
He told them:
“… wherever possible, I like to use humour to minimise or marginalise the other side.”
Berman was joined at the conference by Jack Hubbard, a vice president at Berman & Company, who described the P.R. firm’s approach for targeting what they labelled “radical” groups like the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Food and Water Watch.
“So we thought, how are we going to kick off this campaign? Take the typical Berman and Company model, in terms of undermining these folks’ credibility and diminish their moral authority.”
He added that they had done “a whole bunch of intense opposition research into their board of directors”, but ended up with nothing more than a campaign based on the gas mileage of the directors’ personal vehicles.
As an example of their effectiveness at changing the public’s perception of an issue through personal attacks on advocates, Hubbard explained how their campaigns worked:
“…one of the things we are really focused on is how do we take the message, put it on a bumper sticker, and get it out to the public so it gets coverage and you break through the 24/7 news cycle.”
The team’s tactics include taking advantage of people’s short attention spans, especially where ballot initiatives and issues of local control are concerned.
“The next thing you know, you’re trying to play defense against multiple public initiatives that are very different and very complex. And the public, frankly, doesn’t have the time or the brain to understand them all. So what we wanted to do is that we wanted to brand the entire movement behind this as not being credible and anti-science.”
Berman described the job of convincing people as he sees it — introducing just enough doubt that even if people don’t support an issue, they’re confused enough to write it off.
“Instead of getting the ‘he said she said’ debate, what you will get with the factual debate, often times, you’re going to get into people get overwhelmed by the science and ‘I don’t know who to believe. But if you got enough on your side you get people into a position of paralysis on the issue. You get into people’s minds a tie. They don’t know who is right. And you get all ties because a tie basically ensures the status quo.”
It is unclear whether people have the stomach for more of this type of behaviour. Even the pro-drilling Denver Post editorial board has criticized the tactics that Berman suggested and which industry public relations outlets like Energy In Depth have been using for years, calling one ad:
“… a cheap shot at fracking foes.”
But the industry itself is desperate as public concerns about climate change increase and popular sentiment turns against more drilling. And desperate times mean desperate measures.
The recording is by no means the first evidence of these aggressive and ad hominem tactics.
Last month, DeSmog described how the industry’s attack machine has gone after major foundations and endowments, attempting to frame their donations to environmental groups as an insideous conspiracy to undermine American energy production instead of a response to the growing number of problems related to fracking.
Back in 2011, CNBC revealed that Range Resources was taking military psy-ops skills and applying them to political battles in Pennsyvlania and across the U.S., with an official from another shale gas company, Anandarko, telling attendees at a Houston shale conference that
“… we are dealing with an insurgency.”
They’ve also claimed that the media is waging a “war on shale gas” at times when reporters started asking tough but vital questions, surrounding dubious financial practices and how toxic waste from fracking is handled, for example.
In the recorded speech, Berman and Hubbard provided detailed public relations advice to those gathered:
“If you want a video to go viral, have kids or animals.”
“There is nothing the public likes more than tearing down celebrities and playing up the hypocrisy angle.”
Berman is also known for having created the American Beverage Institute in 1991, which lobbied against tougher restrictions on drunk driving, while protecting its donors.
He is also especially notorious among labor unions, another of his favorite adversaries. Berman created the so-called Center for Union Facts, which led a $10 million anti-union campaign, without disclosing its donors.
As he said:
“I get up every morning and I try to figure out how to screw with the labor unions — that’s my offense. I am just trying to figure out how I am going to reduce their brand.”