Friday, February 29, 2008

More expert commentary on Exxon Valdez -- Sturley on vicarious liability

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog posted comments by Michael Sturley who helped prepare ExxonMobil's brief.WSJ Law Blog   He didn't make predictions, but did highlight the vicarious liability argument that EM should not be held liable for Hazelwood's actions because they were against policy and he was not high enough in the corporation.  I find this fascinating.  In the criminal context, federal criminal statutes have been interpreted to hold corporations vicariously liable for actions of all employees within the scope of employment and that having a policy against the action does not insulate the corporation.  Why, pray tell, would we apply a different test in a punitive damages context?

February 29, 2008 in Cases, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Expert commentary on the Exxon Valdez Argument -- Prof. Amy Wildermuth on the Court's "affinity for the trinity"

Professor Amy Wildermuth, University of Utah, worked on an amicus brief in support of the respondents in the Exxon case and has offered these extensive comments on the argument. Wildermuth reaction In sum, her commentary agrees with my conclusion that the Court is quite interested in a possible limit of two-to-one--"an affinity for the trinity" that she asserts can be traced back to prior cases.  She points out, however, that no common law court has ever adopted that kind of ratio limit; instead, it has been exclusively legislatures that have adopted such limits.  She also raises the interesting question of whether the base for any such ratio might be reevaluated in light of Justice Kennedy's citation of the general criminal statute that uses "gross loss" as its base.

February 29, 2008 in Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Barack Obama and Faith in Politics

Here's an excerpt of a column in Sojomail, a faith and spirituality e-zine, written by Jim Wallis about Barack Obama and the rumors and inuendos that have been circulated about Obama's faith stance.  I found, unsurprisingly, that when I read his first book, my faith resonated with Obama's.  I belong to First Salem UCC and Trinity is also a UCC church.  It grieves me to see someone attacked on the basis of the religion of their parents (what happened to no corruption of blood in the constitution -- oh yeah, and that freedom of religion stuff).  So, I found Wallis' remarks particularly compelling.

So let's set the record straight. I have known Barack Obama for more than 10 years, and we have been talking about his Christian faith for a decade. Like me and many other Christians, he agrees with the need to reach out to Muslims around the world, especially if we are ever to defeat Islamic fundamentalism. But he is not a Muslim, never has been, never attended a Muslim madrassa, and does not attend a black "separatist" church. Rather, he has told me the story of his coming from an agnostic household, becoming a community organizer on Chicago's South Side who worked with the churches, and how he began attending one of them. Trinity Church is one of the most prominent and respected churches in Chicago and the nation, and its pastor, Jeremiah Wright, is one of the leading revival preachers in the black church. Ebony magazine once named him one of the U.S.'s 15 best Black preachers. The church says it is "unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian," like any good black church would, but is decidedly not "separatist," as its white members and friends would attest. 

And one Sunday, as Obama has related to me and written in his book, The Audacity of Hope, the young community organizer walked down the aisle and gave his life to Christ in a very personal and very real Christian conversion experience. We have talked about our faith and its relationship to politics many times since. And after he gave his speech at a Sojourners/Call to Renewal conference in June of 2006, E.J. Dionne said that it may have been "the most important pronouncement by a Democrat on faith and politics since John F. Kennedy's Houston speech in 1960 declaring his independence from the Vatican."

 Like his politics or not, support his candidacy or not - but don't disparage Barack Obama's faith, his church, his minister, or his credibility as an articulate Christian layman who feels a vocation in politics. Those falsehoods are simply vicious lies and should be denounced by people of faith from across the political spectrum.

February 28, 2008 in Governance/Management | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The $ 3 Trillion Dollar War

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan  to the United States alone will exceed $ 3 trillion -- yes that is not a typo, that is a "t" trillion.  His new book, “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” co-authored with Harvard University professor Linda Bilmes, will be released tomorrow.  They argue that the cost to America of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been vastly underestimated.  Indeed when factors such as interest on debt, future borrowing for war expenses, a continued military presence in Iraq and lifetime health-care and counseling for veterans are counted, the wars’ cost to the United States ranges from $5 - $ 7 trillion.  The book's estimates are the subject of a hearing today by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.  McClatchy News

Obviously $ 3 trillion dollars is real money -- but what could we have bought for $ 3 trillion dollars?  The entire US government budget for the next year.  Reduction of the national debt by 30%.  Or how about something that would actually expand US influence throughout the world -- providing full funding for the entire cost of meeting the Millenium Development Goal of reducing by half the number of people who lack safe drinking water and sanitation is $ 11.3 billion per year for 10 years.  Perhaps supplying everyone in the world with safe drinking water and sanitation might cost three times that.  So for 10% of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we could have saved about 1 million lives per year that are lost to water-borne diseases, provided water for 2 billion people, and sanitation for 4 billion people.  And we worry about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.....

February 28, 2008 in Africa, Asia, Australia, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, International, North America, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Exxon Valdez argument -- what's law got to do with it, got to do with it?

At least for our result-oriented friend Justice Scalia, its all about the money.  Yesterday when the Exxon Valdez punitive damages case was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, plaintiffs' counsel Jeffrey Fisher suggested hopefully that the justices had agreed to hear the case because of an unsettled aspect of maritime law, Scalia said sharply: "That," the justice said, "and $3.5 billion."  SCOTUS argument transcript for Exxon Valdez

So count the votes.

Votes to overturn the appellate court's decision reducing the verdict to $ 2.5 billion and award no punitive damages: Scalia, Roberts, Thomas.  Roberts would argue the corporation cannot be punished without culpability.  Scalia and Thomas would argue no punitive damage award is ever appropriate.

Votes to reverse and remand for punitive damages to roughly $ 800,000, which would be twice the compensatory damages consistent with the rule of thumb suggested previously in State Farm: Kennedy, Breyer, and Souter.

Votes to affirm: Ginsberg, Stevens.  Ginsberg showed her sympathies.  Stevens limited his questions to those about Exxon's responsibility for the Captain's actions -- phrased in a way that suggests he believes Exxon is liable.

My guess.  6-2 limiting damages to twice the amount, with concurring opinions by scalia and roberts.  Alito is not participating.  Lots of media are talking about the consequences of a 4-4 split, which would affirm.  I don't think there's any chance of that.

February 28, 2008 in Biodiversity, Cases, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, North America, Sustainability, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Judge Redden Approves Steady State Order on the Columbia River dam operations

Judge Redden  signed an order continuing the 2007 FCRPS operations through 2008.  US DOJ proposed the rollover in order to allow National Fisheries to focus on producing a solid final biological opinion.  The order and other information on the federal caucus' work to protect and recovery listed Columbia Basin fish fish at www.salmonrecovery.gov.  


 

February 27, 2008 in Biodiversity, Cases, Energy, Governance/Management, Law, Physical Science, Sustainability, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

SCOTUS hears lengthy argument on Exxon Valdez punitives

The Supreme Court will hear extended arguments in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker (07-219) today, but has refused a request by the state of Alaska to argue.  The case involves Exxon’s challenge to the $2.5 billion punitive damages verdict awarded to businesses and individuals for damages done by the massive oil spill from the tanker, Exxon Valdez, in Alaska’s Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989.

February 27, 2008 in Cases, Constitutional Law, Energy, Law, US, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oil Prices Exceed $ 101/barrel Today

The intraday high for crude reached $ 101.15/barrel today and ultimately settled to $ 100.88.  MarketWatch link And this is in the midst of a recession!  Seems like OPEC may have manipulated the rest of us into an awfully tight spot -- or may be it is just peak oil rearing its ugly, but inevitable head.

February 26, 2008 in Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Election 2008 -- The Candidates Speak in Their Own Words -- Part III:John McCain

During the last year, Foreign Affairs published a series of pieces on the 2008 presidential election, allowing candidates to frame their foreign policy in their own words. Foreign Affairs Election 2008 I am reviewing those pieces for discussions of global environmental issues, including climate change.  I find this a particularly useful approach because it allows candidates to move beyond sound bites and into the substance of what they believe. 

I expect to look at all of the current candidates: Democratic and Republican.  Today's post is John McCain.

Here's the foreign policy of John McCain with respect to the environment (especially global warming) in his own words:

SECURING ENERGY AND SAVING THE ENVIRONMENT

America's dependence on foreign oil constitutes a critical strategic vulnerability. America accounts for 25 percent of global demand for oil but possesses less than three percent of the world's proven reserves. Most of the world's known reserves are in the Persian Gulf, in the hands of dictators or nationalized oil companies. Terrorists understand our vulnerability: had it succeeded, the attempted suicide attack on a Saudi refinery in February 2006 would have driven the world price of oil above $150 per barrel. The transfer of American wealth to the Middle East through continued oil purchases helps sustain the conditions under which extremism breeds, and the burning of oil and other fossil fuels spurs global warming, a gathering danger to our planet.

My national energy strategy will amount to a declaration of independence from our reliance on oil sheiks and our vulnerability to their troubled politics. This strategy will include employing technology to achieve new efficiencies in energy extraction and consumption, enforcing conservation, creating market incentives to encourage the development of alternative sources of energy and hybrid vehicles, and expanding sources of renewable energy. I will also greatly increase the use of nuclear power, a zero-emission energy source. Given the proper incentives, our innovators, scientists, entrepreneurs, and workers have the capability to lead the world in achieving energy security; given the stakes, they must.

I have proposed a bipartisan plan in the U.S. Senate to address the problem of climate change and ensure a sustainable future for humankind. My market-based approach will set reasonable caps on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, provide industries with tradable emissions credits, and create other incentives for the deployment of new and better energy sources and technologies. It is time for America to lead the world in protecting the environment for future generations.

February 25, 2008 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

The Orchestrated Campaign to Deny Human-Caused Global Warming

Little more than a week ago, I posted a portion of John Mashey's paper on the orchestrated campaign to deny that humans are causing significant global warming.  The entire paper is now published here as a service to those who are trying to understand why the US has been such a laggard on global warming and the challenges that a new president will face in trying to enact an adequate system to reduce GHG emissions.   Download Mashey paper on the denialist campaign

February 25, 2008 in Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Law, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

LCV Scorecard on Presidential Candidates Clinton, Obama, and McCain

The League of Conservation Voters issued its Congressional Scorecard this week.  This year, Obama and Clinton are both well above 50%, but neither were at the top of the heap, mostly because they missed 4 votes that LCV deemed critical.  McCain, on the other hand, missed all of the votes.  Overall, on a "lifetime" basis, Clinton and Obama are neck and neck Obama (87% v. 86%), and McCain is far below both (24%).  So, the Green candidates according are Clinton and Obama. LCV Scorecard link

February 23, 2008 in Governance/Management, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Election 2008 -- The Candidates Speak in Their Own Words -- Part II:Hillary Clinton

During the last year, Foreign Affairs published a series of pieces on the 2008 presidential election, allowing candidates to frame their foreign policy in their own words. Foreign Affairs Election 2008 I am reviewing those pieces for discussions of global environmental issues, including climate change.  I find this a particularly useful approach because it allows candidates to move beyond sound bites and into the substance of what they believe. 

I expect to look at all of the current candidates: Democratic and Republican. The first candidate I am reviewed was Barack Obama. Today's post is Hillary Clinton.

Here's the foreign policy of Hillary Clinton with respect to the environment (especially global warming) in her own words:

The tragedy of the last six years is that the Bush administration has squandered the respect, trust, and confidence of even our closest allies and friends. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the United States enjoyed a unique position. Our world leadership was widely accepted and respected, as we strengthened old alliances and built new ones, worked for peace across the globe, advanced nonproliferation, and modernized our military....At the same time, we embarked on an unprecedented course of unilateralism:..Our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and refusal to participate in any international effort to deal with the tremendous challenges of climate change further damaged our international standing....At a moment in history when the world's most pressing problems require unprecedented cooperation, this administration has unilaterally pursued policies that are widely disliked and distrusted....

We need more than vision, however, to achieve the world we want. We must face up to an unprecedented array of challenges in the twenty-first century, threats from states, nonstate actors, and nature itself...Finally, the next president will have to address the looming long-term threats of climate change and a new wave of global health epidemics....

But China's rise is also creating new challenges. The Chinese have finally begun to realize that their rapid economic growth is coming at a tremendous environmental price. The United States should undertake a joint program with China and Japan to develop new clean-energy sources, promote greater energy efficiency, and combat climate change. This program would be part of an overall energy policy that would require a dramatic reduction in U.S. dependence on foreign oil....

We must find additional ways for Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to cooperate on issues of mutual concern, including combating terrorism, cooperating on global climate control, protecting global energy supplies, and deepening global economic development...

As president, I will make the fight against global warming a priority. We cannot solve the climate crisis alone, and the rest of the world cannot solve it without us. The United States must reengage in international climate change negotiations and provide the leadership needed to reach a binding global climate agreement. But we must first restore our own credibility on the issue. Rapidly emerging countries, such as China, will not curb their own carbon emissions until the United States has demonstrated a serious commitment to reducing its own through a market-based cap-and-trade approach.

We must also help developing nations build efficient and environmentally sustainable domestic energy infrastructures. Two-thirds of the growth in energy demand over the next 25 years will come from countries with little existing infrastructure. Many opportunities exist here as well: Mali is electrifying rural communities with solar power, Malawi is developing a biomass energy strategy, and all of Africa can provide carbon credits to the West.

Finally, we must create formal links between the International Energy Agency and China and India and create an "E-8" international forum modeled on the G-8. This group would be comprised of the world's major carbon-emitting nations and hold an annual summit devoted to international ecological and resource issues.

February 23, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

2008 Elections - Website Resource

Wow!  I came across an incredible resource on the 2008 elections -- the State Department website for foreign press.  Go take a look!  State Department election 2008 site

February 23, 2008 in Governance/Management, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

IUCN 6th Annual Colloquium on poverty alleviation and environmental degradation

Call for Papers: IUCN Academy 6th Meeting

Metropolitan Autonomous University–Azcapotzalco, Mexico City will host the Sixth Annual Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, which will focus on poverty alleviation in the context of the law relating to environment protection, through four overarching themes:

1. The links between poverty and environmental degradation
2. Sustainable resource use and poverty alleviation
3. Poverty alleviation and environmental protection in an urban context
4. Education, Participation and Environmental Justice.

A detailed list of topics will be made available shortly on the Conference website at Colloquium link

and on the IUCN Academy website at Academy link

.

Keynote presenters and papers for plenary sessions will be by invitation of the Conference Organizing Committee. However, abstracts for the remaining sessions are invited for consideration by the Committee.  Selected papers from the Colloquium will be published in the Research Series of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, a peer-reviewed Cambridge University Press publication.

Timetable for submission of abstracts and papers

Submission of abstracts: 30 June, 2008.

Notification of acceptance of paper: 18 July, 2008.

Submission of final paper for publication: 30 September, 2008

Final papers and abstracts submitted after these dates are unlikely to be accepted for presentation or publication due to organizational deadlines.

Annotated abstracts not exceeding 500 words may be submitted by e-mail to the Conference Organizers at coloquiouam-uicn@correo.azc.uam.mx with a copy to Bernadette.Blanchard@uottawa.ca Abstracts should be typed double-spaced 12 point Times New Roman font.

The abstract should also include the full name and institution of the author. If there is more than one author for a paper then the presenting author should also be indicated. The abstract should also include contact details including e-mail address, telephone number, facsimile if available and postal address.

Style guidelines for accepted papers are available at
http://web5.uottawa.ca/weblaw/iucn/files/conf/style-guide.pdf

Selection of papers

Selection of papers by the Committee will be based upon a range of factors including the geographical distribution of the authors, the importance of the topic, the quality and originality of the topics and the range of topics needed to fill the agenda for the Colloquium, and whether the submitters are professors from institutions which are members of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law.

For more details, visit: International Environmental Law Prof Blog

February 23, 2008 in Governance/Management, Law, Sustainability | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 18, 2008

ExxonMobil Deliberately Misled Blogosphere About Funding Global Warming Denialists

Yesterday's post on ExxonMobil (2/17/08)  highlighted that it had funded the Frontiers of Freedom and its Center for Science and Public Policy (CSPP link ) during 2006, contrary to its claim that it was not funding global warming denialists.  You may wonder about the context in which ExxonMobil made this claim.


Remember last year when the IPCC 4th Assessment report came out – the Guardian wrote a story about American Enterprise Institute soliciting result-oriented denialist analyses of the IPCC report and that report included information about ExxonMobil’s funding of AEI. Guardian 2/2/07 Report.  During conversations in late January and early February, 2007 with me and other bloggers, Maria Surma Manka from Green Options [Giant Part I Post; Giant Part II Post], Jesse Jenkins from Watthead [ExxonMobil Posts], Tom Yulsman from Prometheus [Post on earlier conversations -- I can't recall whether Tom participated in the February call, but I believe he did], Stuart Staniford from The Oil Drum [ExxonMobil AEI Post], Ken Cohen, ExxonMobil’s Vice President for Public Affairs had assured us that ExxonMobil was no longer funding controversial denialist groups like Competitive Enterprise Institute and it did not fund AEI with the intent that they engage in denialist analyses.  The first conference call occurred in late January and the second on the same day that the Guardian story and the IPCC report came out.

 

Cohen spent considerable time before the IPCC report came out in January 2007 trying to convince us that ExxonMobil was changing its Neanderthal stripes, truly accepted that anthropogenic global warming was a serious problem, and was ready to take a responsible role in the future discussions of how to reduce GHG emissions. Admittedly Cohen did that in the truly diplomatic way of saying that ExxonMobil had not effectively communicated its position that anthropogenic global warming is real and that GHG emissions need to be reduced.

 

During the February call, Cohen knew that the Guardian’s report about ExxonMobil’s funding of AEI and AEI’s alleged solicitation of result-oriented denialist analyses threatened to undercut public perception of ExxonMobil as a responsible actor. Indeed, those reports ended up on CNN. So, Cohen went out of his way to schedule this call about the Guardian’s allegations.

 

As Maria recounted that discussion:

“We had no knowledge that this was going on,” insisted Cohen. He explained that Exxon funds a lot of different groups, and “when we fund them, we want good analysis." Exxon does not condone what AEI did, but Cohen confirmed that it does continues to fund AEI, although other groups like the Competitive Enterprise Institute are not funded by them anymore.

Cohen assured us that Exxon is “trying to be a constructive player in the policy discussion and not associate [themselves] with those that are marginalized and are not welcome in that discussion.” The IPCC report “is what it is,” and Exxon does not believe in engaging in scientific research that preordains an answer. Cohen:

…that's the issue with AEI: Are they preordaining an answer?…I can understand taking a market approach or a government interventionist approach, but this is not a question of trying to find who’s right or who’s wrong. Let’s let the process work.

But, I asked, how can you grant AEI nearly two million dollars (n.b. slsmith -over the entirety of AEI operations, not annually) and not know what they’re doing with the money? Turns out that Exxon conveniently funds the “general operations” of AEI, not specific programs that would allow them to track how the money is being used. Perhaps Exxon needs to think hard next time before it funds an organization so clearly disinterested in constructive solutions.

Cohen was consistently explicit in Exxon's position that global warming is happening and mainly caused by human activities. If that is true, then how will Exxon fight the huge misperception that it’s still the planet's largest naysayer? Cohen conceded that the company needed to do a better job of communicating its position on global warming, rather than allowing a fact sheet or news release on their website to do the work.

 

Cohen kept telling us that the 2006 contribution report was coming out, but declined to give us any specifics about ExxonMobil’s contributions to AEI or other groups, but he said Competitive Enterprise Institute was no longer funded.  Cohen continued to defend AEI as a responsible, albeit very conservative, think tank doing legitimate policy research. And frankly, I supported him on that score during the calls because at least some of the work done by AEI is just that. And I was not nearly as skeptical as others about ExxonMobil's protestations of innocence.  See my post on the AEI matter ELP Blog Post on AEI

 

Here’s why yesterday I called ExxonMobil’s behavior in early 2007 deliberately misleading. Initial Post on 2006 Funding Report  

 

As the quoted material above indicates, Cohen in early February 2007 led us to believe that ExxonMobil was no longer in the denialist camp and did not condone AEI soliciting denialist analysis (if indeed that’s what they had done). He claimed that ExxonMobil no longer associated with marginalized denialist groups. He suggested that the 2006 report would indicate that ExxonMobily had disassociated itself from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which brought us the classic, sadly humorous “Carbon dioxide: they call it pollution, we call it life!” TV commercials. You tube link to CEI Energy commercial.

 

From this discussion, it seems clear that Cohen knew precisely which “public information and policy research” organizations that were funded by ExxonMobil during 2006. Yet, while he perhaps sat with the 2006 report in front of him and refused to release its contents, the 2006 contribution report later showed that in 2006 ExxonMobil provided $ 180,000 to Frontiers of Freedom and the CSPP, the policy center it created with ExxonMobil's funding several years ago. P.S. Cohen denied funding CSPP in an e-mail today, but unless my sight is failing: CSPP is reported as the Science and Policy Center under Frontiers of Freedom Download 2006 ExxonMobil's "public information and policy research" contributions If that’s not supporting denialists and associating with marginalized denialist groups, I don’t know what is!


Take a good look at the high quality analysis of global warming that CSPP provides:

 

(1) the amicus curiae brief filed in Mass. v. EPA by lawyers from the Competitive Enterprise Institute

(2) Dr. Ball's The Science Isn't Settled powerpoint presentation - Dr. Ball is the Chairman of the Natural Resources Stewardship Project which describes its first project on understanding climate change as "a proactive grassroots campaign to counter the Kyoto Protocol and other greenhouse gas reduction schemes." NRSP describes Dr. Ball as the "lead participant in a number of recent made-for-TV climate change videos, The Great Global Warming Swindle."

(3) Joe Daleo's Congressional Seminar on global warming in March 2007 devoted to disputing the IPCC's report and arguing that anthropogenic global warming from greenhouse gas emissions are not a real problem.

(4) CSPP's May 2007 rebuttal of Al Gore's testimony, which suggests there is no scientific consensus that CO2 emissions are causing global warming

(5) a nonsensical piece on "Gore's Guru," positing that because Dr. Revelle, who died in 1991, had cautioned in 1988 and 1991 against drawing rash conclusions about global warming might still take that position.  I call it nonsensical because Dr. Revelle suggested that we wait 10-20 years to see if the trends continued.  We've waited and now we've answered that question: between 1998 and 2008 we witnessed incredibly dramatic global warming and the scientific community has spent the last 10-20 years studying whether indeed human-caused GHG emissions are responsible for much of that warming.  We and ExxonMobil know its answer to that question.


Obviously, the blogosphere is not the only group worried about ExxonMobil's funding choices.  Britain's national academy of scientists, The Royal Society,  in September 2006 took ExxonMobil to task about its funding of denialist groups.  Royal Society letter

Well, maybe ExxonMobil finally pulled the plug on FF and its “Science and Policy” center in 2007 (and so Cohen was just tap-dancing around the embarrassing, but not on-going, reality of funding denialists). Although, FF's CSPP might survive: it apparently does have funding from two major tobacco companies!

Maybe ExxonMobil has rethought its policy on funding organizations whose primary contribution to the climate change discussion is to distribute continued attacks on those who conclude that the current state of climate science supports an effective policy to reduce GHG emissions.  I’d like to think so – but we won’t know until ExxonMobil releases its 2007 contributions report. I requested that Cohen release it to me; he declined.

However, even if it had defunded FF and CSPP (and other denialist groups), I’m not sure I’d believe that ExxonMobil hadn’t found new denialist outlets to fund.

 

If the Guardian and other media or the blogosphere produce a big enough stir on this story, perhaps it will. But I am astonished that, just as it was selling itself as a responsible player on global warming, ExxonMobil would act so irresponsibly and so deceptively. And I am deeply embarrassed at my naievete in believing what Ken Cohen and ExxonMobil were selling about ExxonMobil’s born again conversion to a responsible position on anthropogenic global warming.

 

Watch out, though, ExxonMobil knows that the question is no longer whether global warming is real, but what to do about it. You can bet it is smart enough and devious enough to fund a lot of “public information and policy research” that will muddle policy discussions about global warming legislation and may assure that not much is done to regulate GHG emissions from oil and gas and that what is done doesn’t cut hardly at all into ExxonMobil’s astounding profits: $41 billion for 2007 and almost $ 12 billion in the 4th quarter of 2007 alone. ExxonMobil profits post


I have a modest suggestion for ExxonMobil: do not fund organizations whose published information, analysis, and research on global warming or climate change has primarily sought to undercut the conclusions reached by the joint statement published in 2005 by 11 national academies of science, including the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, India, Brazil and China .  That statement is linked here:   Joint Science Academies' Statement: Global Response to Climate Change


Unless and until ExxonMobil stops funding the sort of stuff that Center for Science and Public Policy is peddling, I hope that the new President and Congress will not believe a single word that is said about global warming policy by ExxonMobil or any of denialist and anti-regulatory "public information and policy research" organizations it funds.

 

 

Continue reading

February 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Foreign Affairs - The Candidates in Their Own Words --

During the last year, Foreign Affairs published a series of pieces on the 2008 presidential election, allowing candidates to frame their foreign policy in their own words. Foreign Affairs Election 2008  I am reviewing those pieces for discussions of global environmental issues, including climate change.  I find this a particularly useful approach because it allows candidates to move beyond sound bites and into the substance of what they believe. 

I expect to look at all of the current candidates: Democratic and Republican. The first candidate I am reviewing is Barack Obama.  I chose Obama first in part because I am torn between Clinton and Obama.  Although I respect John McCain's leadership on climate change, I could not vote for a Republican after the 1994 - 2006 Republican congressional legacy and the debacle of Bush's presidency for virtually every freedom and human need.  I also disagree with McCain's position on Iraq.

In his own words, Barack Obama primarily addresses climate change as a matter of global policy.  He ties the US response to global warming to his overall foreign policy in this way:

Strengthened institutions and invigorated alliances and partnerships are especially crucial if we are to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change. Without dramatic changes, rising sea levels will flood coastal regions around the world, including much of the eastern seaboard. Warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will reduce crop yields, increasing conflict, famine, disease, and poverty. By 2050, famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide. That means increased instability in some of the most volatile parts of the world.

As the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases, America has the responsibility to lead. While many of our industrial partners are working hard to reduce their emissions, we are increasing ours at a steady clip -- by more than ten percent per decade. As president, I intend to enact a cap-and-trade system that will dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. And I will work to finally free America of its dependence on foreign oil -- by using energy more efficiently in our cars, factories, and homes, relying more on renewable sources of electricity, and harnessing the potential of biofuels.

Getting our own house in order is only a first step. China will soon replace America as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Clean energy development must be a central focus in our relationships with major countries in Europe and Asia. I will invest in efficient and clean technologies at home while using our assistance policies and export promotions to help developing countries leapfrog the carbon-energy-intensive stage of development. We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia. This challenge is massive, but rising to it will also bring new benefits to America. By 2050, global demand for low-carbon energy could create an annual market worth $500 billion. Meeting that demand would open new frontiers for American entrepreneurs and workers.

February 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Exxon Continued to Fund Climate Change Denial Campaign in 2006

Most of us are convinced now that anthropomorphic climate change is based on sound, virtually unassailable science, that all but a few climate scientists agree with that assessment, that the questions to be answered now are:

  • how quickly and by what means to reduce GHG emissions,
  • what the inescapable impacts are of the GHG emissions already in the atmosphere and liable to be added to the atmosphere before we achieve carbon neutrality,
  • how to undertake the task of adapting to the impacts that are liable to occur in the next century or so.   

This time last year ExxonMobil waged a campaign with bloggers to convince us that they recognized the reality of anthropogenic global warming and were serious about solutions.

Most of us are also aware of the intense disinformation campaign that was waged by the Bush administration and others with respect to climate change science.  That campaign continues. 

John Mashey, a Bell Lab /Silicon Valley computer scientist provided me with a copy of his analysis of the recent salvos lobbed with respect to the Oreskes documentation of a "scientific consensus."  It is of general enough interest that I provide the introduction to his analysis and his author information below.  Although Mashey's tone is harsh and I haven't had an opportunity to verify all of his information, I have checked enough to believe that it is accurate.

The part of his paper that stirs my ire is the information about Frontiers of Freedom's Center for Science and Public Policy, which he indicates is a denialist organization funded (at least in part) by ExxonMobil.  I looked up ExxonMobil's contributions to "Public Information and Policy Research" for 2006, when supposed ExxonMobil was not in the business of funding denialist nonsense.  Well, there it is, $180,000 to Frontiers of Freedom and its CSPP.  That's more than they gave to Brookings ($135,000), Asia Society ($90,000), Council on Foreign Relations ($110,000)  or most  of the legitimate organizations to which they contribute.  I can't say they lied last year, but I can say they  deliberately misled me.

Take a look at the CSPP website.  If that's not denialist nonsense, I don't know what is!

Continue reading

February 14, 2008 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Carbon Offsets

For the last two or three years, I've been purchasing TerraPass and Carbon Fund carbon offset products.  The obvious question is "when will the cost of offsets start rising?" since the cheap offsets should be exhausted at some point and marginal offset costs should rise.  So far, its really cheap to buy offsets.  The problem for most of us is the bewildering plethora of certifications, auditors, etc.  Wouldn't it be better to establish a national standard for certifying carbon offsets so that those of us who  chose to go carbon neutral in this manner know that we're accomplishing our goal.  Here's the current portfolio info from TerraPass.  I'd be interested in comments about these projects, certifications, other carbon offset providers, or the carbon offset concept in general.  I hope that Willamette University, my home school, will go carbon neutral soon.

Projects we support

See how your TerraPass purchase goes into action

When you buy a carbon offset from TerraPass, your money supports clean energy and other projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Featured Projects

TerraPass funds three different project types: clean energy produced by wind power; farm power which makes good use of animal wastes; and landfill gas capture, which reduces the impact of our own wastes.

 

   

Stakeholder comment periods

   

Beginning in 2008, TerraPass has made a commitment to a 30-day comment period on any new projects we are considering for our portfolio. Check the latest projects under consideration on our Project feedback page.
    
   

   

Our Guarantee

You want to be sure your money is well-spent, and we want you to have confidence in TerraPass. To ensure we meet your expectations, we've adopted industry-leading business practices.

Independent verification

All TerraPass projects are verified by an independent accredited organization according to a published offset standard. All verifications include site visits, audits of the project data and project monitoring equipment and practices relative to the standard used. A full project portfolio, including amounts purchased, is published on our web site each year after our independent audit is complete.

Project Standards and Requirements

Every project is conducted and verified according to one of the following appropriate standards: Voluntary Carbon Standard 2007, Green-e Climate, Chicago Climate Exchange Offset Protocols, California Climate Action Registry, EPA Climate Leaders, ISO 14064-2, and Gold Standard. TerraPass publishes the standard to be used for each project on our website when we solicit comments for new projects, and in our annual project portfolio.

Every 2008 TerraPass will be fulfilled with verified emission reductions from vintage year 2008; these projects must have started operating no earlier than January 1, 2002. As we consider new projects, we publish the project name and location on our web site and invite public comments.

Each TerraPass comes with a Product Content Label, which identifies the amount of carbon emission reductions purchased, our project types, locations, and business practices.

Annual Audit

To ensure maximum transparency and accountability, every TerraPass offset purchase and marketing claim is verified in an annual audit conducted or overseen by the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions (CRS), creator of Green-e, the nation's leading renewable energy certification program. These audits verify our purchases and help to ensure transparency and accountability.

Click here to view our annual project portfolios and audit details

Refund Policy

TerraPass stands behind its products with a 100% money-back guarantee. If you are dissatisfied with your TerraPass purchase for any reason, you can return it within 30 days of purchase for a full refund.


TerraPass project portfolio

To ensure maximum transparency and accountability, every TerraPass offset purchase and marketing claim is verified in an annual audit conducted or overseen by the non-profit Center for Resource Solutions (CRS), creator of Green-e, the nation's leading renewable energy certification program. The audit covers several aspect of our business:

  • Purchase history. Do we actually buy the necessary amount of carbon offsets on behalf of our customers? To ensure that we do, CRS examines our customer records and offset purchase contracts.
  • Offset quality. Do we adhere to the quality metrics that we say we support? CRS examines our carbon offset portfolio to ensure that it meets our stated standards.
  • Consumer protection. Do we publicly disclose the contents of every TerraPass purchase? CRS requires that we include a product content label with every TerraPass purchase, which is sort of like an ingredient list alerting customers to exactly what they're buying.

The project portfolio listings below are part of our audit submittals. We publish each year's full portfolio once it has been validated by our auditor.

Skip to: 2006 projects and audit  |  2004-2005 projects and audit

       

2006 Project Portfolio

Total pounds of carbon reduced: 220,426,931

 
TerraPass' 2006 emission reduction obligations were fulfilled from a portfolio of two-thirds greenhouse gas reductions from landfill gas capture and farm power; and one-third clean energy from wind power and landfill power. All projects met our quality criteria: independent verification, ongoing monitoring, and matched maturity. TerraPasses purchased in 2006 were fulfilled with reductions of vintage 2006. All clean energy projects & renewable energy credits were Green-e certified, and all other projects were conducted and verified according to the rules of the Chicago Climate Exchange. All projects in this portfolio are listed below. 2006 Chart
          

View our 2006 audit in PDF format

            

Complete 2006 Project Listing

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
Project NameLocationTypePounds of CO2 reductions% of TotalDetails
CrossRoads LandfillNorridgewock, MELandfill gas capture99,207,00045Methane-based carbon reductions verified to the Chicago Climate Exchange
Blue CanyonSouthwestern OKWind33,465,82815Green-e certified renewable energy certificates
Ainsworth Wind    Energy Facility Ainsworth, NEWind30,974,63014Green-e certified renewable energy certificates
Holsum Irish DairyHilbert, WIFarm power16,743,9378Two-cell heated plug flow digester with grid-tied electricity generation
Bos & Herrema DairiesFair Oaks, INFarm power14,109,4406Plug flow digester with grid-tied electricity generation and onsite use of solids.
Bavarian LandfillBoone County, KYLandfill power10,714,3565Green-e certified renewable energy certificates generated from landfill gas
Garwin McNeilus wind farmDodge Center, MNWind6,613,8003Green-e certified renewable energy certificates
Haubenschild Farms dairyPrinceton, MNFarm power3,086,4401Heated plug flow digester with grid-tied electricity and waste hot water used for onsite needs.
Tontitown LandfillTontitown, ARLandfill gas capture2,865,9801Methane-based carbon reductions verified to the Chicago Climate Exchange
Vander Haak Farms dairyLynden, WAFarm power2,645,5201Mixed plug flow digester with grid-tied electricity generation. Waste hot water used for onsite needs.



2004-2005 Project Portfolio

            

2004-2005: Total pounds of carbon reduced: 43,719,334

                                 
 
TerraPass' 2004-2005 emission reduction obligations were fulfilled from a portfolio of clean energy from wind power (32%), agricultural methane destruction connected with farm power (30%), landfill gas capture (22%), clean energy from landfill gas power (11%), and miscellaneous unspecified reductions from the Chicago Climate Exchange member portfolios (7%). All projects met our quality criteria: independent verification, ongoing monitoring, and reductions which occurred consistent with the timeframe of our external auditing cycle (in this case, late 2004 through 2005). All projects in this portfolio are listed below. 2004-2005 Chart
            

View our 2004-2005 audit in PDF format

            

Complete 2004-2005 Project Listing

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
Project NameLocationTypePounds of CO2 reductions% of TotalDetails
Tontitown LandfillTontitown, ARLandfill gas capture 9,479,78022Methane-based carbon reductions
Haubenschild Farms dairyPrinceton, MNFarm power7,275,18017Heated plug flow digester with grid-tied electricity and waste hot water used for onsite needs
Vander Haak Farms dairyLynden, WAFarm power 5,511,500 13Mixed plug flow digester with grid-tied electricity generation. Waste hot water used for onsite needs
Garwin McNeilus wind farmDodge Center, MNWind power 5,024,28311Green-e certified renewable energy certificates
Catawba    County landfillBlackburn Landfill, Catawba County, NCLandfill gas power 4,718,726 11Green-e certified renewable energy certificates
Ainsworth Wind    Energy Facility Ainsworth, NEWind power 4,303,379 10Green-e certified renewable energy certificates
Chicago Climate Exchange U.S.Unspecified3,086,4407CCX member allowances purchased and retired
Mountain View I and II wind projectsSan Gorgonio Pass, CaliforniaWind power2,957,846 7Green-e certified renewable energy certificates
Cabazon/Whitewater Hill wind projectsSan Gorgonio Pass, CaliforniaWind power 1,141,7403Green-e certified renewable energy certificates
High Winds ProjectsSolano County, CAWind power220,4601Green-e certified renewable energy certificates. Local sheep and barley farmers receive per-turbine lease payments


February 14, 2008 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

State and Regional Climate Initiatives: ABA SEER quick teleconference

American Bar AssociationABA Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
       American Bar Association
Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources

 

American Bar Association
  Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources
  Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Ecosystems Committee

Cosponsored by Renewable Energy Resources Committee; International Environmental Law Committee; New York City Bar Association; the D.C. Bar; Pace Law School; National Association of Environmental Law Societies; American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)

Presents the “Quick Teleconference” program

This program will not offer CLE credit.

Regional and State Climate Change Initiatives

Thursday, February 28, 2008
12:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. Eastern Time / 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. Central Time
10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Mountain Time / 9:15 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Pacific Time

In response to the United States federal government’s failure to address emissions of greenhouse gases causing global climate change, a growing number of states, acting alone or through regional organizations, have initiated a wide variety of innovative programs to address the problem.

This program will provide an overview of these emerging state and regional efforts and examine how these might fit into a future federal program. Speakers will describe the bottom-up stakeholder-driven climate planning processes and some of the policy innovations developed by individual states. They will also examine the expanding role of The Climate Registry and attempts to develop regional goals and trading systems, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Western Governors’ and Midwestern Governors’ Climate Initiatives. Speakers will address how these programs might be integrated into a more comprehensive federal program.

Educational Objectives:

  • Provide the audience with an understanding of current developments in climate change law and public policy at the state and regional level
  • Survey the major the issues presented by efforts to integrate these into a federal system under the Clean Air Act

Faculty:
Moderator:
Robert B. McKinstry, Jr., Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP, Philadelphia, PA

Panelists:
    Thomas D. Peterson, President and CEO, Center for Climate Strategies Pennsylvania State University, Fairfax, VA
Jeffrey Wennberg, Former Commissioner, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, Rutland, VT

Click Here to Register

Upcoming Section Programs:

February 21-22, 2008
                      26th Annual Water Law Conference
                      San Diego, CA

March 5, 2008
                        International Developments in Ecosystem Services
  Cosponsored by the District of Columbia Bar

March 5, 2008
                        Nuclear Power Finance and Development in the Climate Change Era
  Quick Teleconference

March 13-16, 2008
                        37th Annual Conference on Environmental Law
                        Keystone, CO



February 14, 2008 in Climate Change | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, February 8, 2008

D.C. Circuit vacates the delisting and mercury rules

The D.C. Circuit just vacated the Delisting and Clean Air Mercury Rules.  New Jersey v. EPA decision
I have not read the whole decision.  But one of the implication I am most interested in is the court's vacating the delisting rule.  It seems to me that this decision opens the door for carbon dioxide from power plants to be regulated under section 112 of the Clean Air Act.  Section 112, with its Maximum Achievable Control Technology T-based standard, might be an attractive way to use the existing Clean Air Act provisions to regulate carbon dioxide.

February 8, 2008 in Air Quality, Cases, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Law, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)