Tag Archives: fossil fuels

This week in fossil fuels (cont.)

By Christopher B. Daly

Trump puts another fox in charge of another henhouse. Here’s the Trump appointee who is in charge of drilling safety at the Interior Dept:

“Not all the good ideas in America come over the banks of the Potomac River,” Mr. Angelle said at a meeting in Houston in September that was sponsored by an affiliate of the American Petroleum Institute, the large industry lobbying group, and attended by a reporter. “To the degree this industry wants to be part of the discussion, tell me where you want me to be and we will be there,” he said, evoking applause.

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This Week in Fossil Fuels

By Christopher B. Daly 

Dear readers:

Sorry about the unannounced hiatus. All I can say is, there was a beach involved. I am returning to this theme by posting a bunch of links that I was gathering all through the late summer.

Further in my defense: I spent some of my time last month pursuing a solar option for the rooftop of my own home. Putting a fair amount of money where the mouth is.

Some fairly recent developments:

–Another coal company bites the dust. One bond rating agency says investors should avoid the whole sector:

The bond rating agency Fitch expects coal companies to struggle in the future. “The sector default rate is likely to increase further in the near term,” its analysts wrote in a note to investors Monday.

–How crazy is it to over-cool offices? Way to go, men!

Molly Mahannah shivering at work in the summer in Omaha. NYT photo.

Molly Mahannah shivering at work in the summer in Omaha. NYT photo.

–How hard do advocates of fossil fuels fight? Pretty hard, according to this NYT story. (Don’t miss the comments.)

In a related development, TNR comments on the GOP response to Obama. A sample, from Kentucky’s Sen. Mitch McConnell:

“I am not going to sit by while the White House takes aim at the lifeblood of our state’s economy,” the Kentucky senator said. The new regulations, he argued, would mean “fewer jobs, shuttered power plants, and higher electricity costs for families and businesses.”

Problem is, there are only about 6,000 coal-mining jobs in Kentucky.

Not only that, but we have to ask: WHAT IS THE IDEAL NUMBER OF COAL MINING JOBS ON THE PLANET? (I’d say it should approach the number of whale-oil harpooneers.)

–I wasn’t sure whether Newsweek was still in business, but here’s a science lesson.


–NO FRACKIN‘ WAY!! (another upside to low oil prices)

–Who says coal is cheap? It’s actually very costly when you count all the costs.


–Even Bloomberg (the pro-business news agency that’s afraid to rock the boat in China) had to report on this grim news: air pollution, mostly from coal, kills 4,000 Chinese people a day. A day.

If you missed the viral Chinese documentary “Under the Dome,” here’s a link to a story about it.

–Even oil companies don’t want to drill for oil. Sheesh. (Are you listening, Drew Faust? Or do you plan to hold onto those stocks until they’re worthless?)

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This Week in Fossil Fuels

By Christopher B. Daly 

Thanks a lot, SCOTUS! In an otherwise welcome flurry of decisions, the Court issued a ruling that means continued emissions from coal-fired power plants and continued release of mercury into the environment. Isn’t it obvious that Congress created the EPA to protect the environment and the people who live in it?

From the Times:

Writing for the majority, in the 5-to-4 decision, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “It is not rational, never mind ‘appropriate,’ to impose billions of dollars in economic costs in return for a few dollars in health or environmental benefits. Statutory context supports this reading.”

If possible, Scalia has topped himself here in being not only wrong but also belligerent and hypocritical. He has done no cost-benefit analysis himself, so he does not know if the EPA’s action would cost “billions” while yielding only “a few dollars” in benefits. What is the long-term, total cost to society of all that pollution? Does he know? No, he does not. Plus, he justifies his view on the basis of “statutory context.” How about that? In other recent rulings, he has lectured his colleagues on the importance of ignoring “statutory context” in favor of what he calls “originalism” or (when it suits his purposes) something he calls “textualism.”


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This Week in Fossil Fuels (6/19/15)

By Christopher B. Daly 

We take you now to the Vatican . . .

. . . where a pope who took the name of the saint who cared the most about birds and animals and all living creatures decided to take a stand on the moral issues raised by pollution, rampant consumerism, and brutal inequality. He is telling believers to forget about that line in the Bible about God giving man “dominion” over the planet. Instead, he’s telling believers to read the rest of the Bible and catch the main drift, which emphasizes humility, stewardship, and love.

Here’s a summary, courtesy of the Holy See Press Office, and here’s the full text.

Here’s the “lead” (in which Francis invokes his sandal-wearing, vegetarian, tree-hugging namesake):

1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.[1]

–Uh-oh. What happens when the institution of the papacy flip-flops? Could be awkward for American Republicans. (Especially those American Republicans who expediently cite papal teachings on issues like abortion and birth control when it suits them.)

–Especially when the American electorate is moving the other way.

ELSEWHERE in fossil fuels . . .

–Batteries have long been the weak link in the transition to electric power. Could this guy have an answer?

–On the divestment front: add the pro-business MIT to the list of U.S. universities bailing out of investments in coal (and tar sands). Go, you Beavers!

–And here’s a series on coal-fired plants. Phew.

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This Week in Fossil Fuels (cont.)

By Christopher B. Daly

Another week, another episode of harm to the planet and to individual human beings.

A child tries to protect himself from the air pollution in New Delhi. Credit Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times, via Getty Images

A child tries to protect himself from the air pollution in New Delhi. Credit Sanjeev Verma/Hindustan Times, via Getty Images

Here is a heartbreaking account of one family’s struggle with the air pollution in India (granted, some of India’s air pollution is not caused by burning fossil fuels, but we know where most of it comes from — burning coal). Of course, this story involves a family from the developed world with every advantage, so imagine how miserable life is for the typical, poor Indian.

–The world’s largest “sovereign wealth fund” (that’s an investment vehicle created by a government to make money for its public-employee pensions, for example) has decided to divest from coal. Norway is taking that step in part because of the “feel-good” politics of voting against polluters that many liberal polities would find appealing. But I suspect that it also reflects a dawning awareness among all economic players: All the world’s coal companies are based on ownership of an asset (coal) that is destined to decline in value. Which raises a question for all parties who invest in coal and oil, too: what is the economic sense in owning stock in an industry that is destined to go out of business? That question pertains to individuals, university endowments, wealth managers, everybody.

–In The New Yorker, the redoubtable Elizabeth Kolbert shines a light on the world’s biggest source of coal: the border area between Montana and Wyoming. (“. . .where the skies are not cloudy all day . .”) Guess who owns all that coal? We do!

The Powder River Basin, which stretches over twenty-six thousand square miles of southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming, is the largest coal-producing region in the world. Roughly forty per cent of the coal that’s burned in the United States is mined there; this comes to nearly four hundred million tons a year. And there’s plenty more still in the ground. A recent report by the U.S. Geological Survey estimated recoverable reserves in the region at more than a hundred and sixty billion tons.

The federal government owns most of the coal in the Powder River Basin, and leases the land to private companies that mine it for a profit.

So, what are WE going to do about it? Apparently, we are going to do the same thing that China is planning: keep burning coal and set clean-air goals for a half-generation or so from now (i.e., long after most current officials in both countries have retired). Thanks a lot!

–In the inaugural post in this series, I wrote that no journalist covers fossil fuel as a “beat.” Turns out, that’s not quite true. At the Houston Chronicle (no surprise, I guess), the business section has a vertical devoted to covering the oil

That's a lobster.  Credit: Getty

That’s a lobster.
Credit: Getty

and natural gas business, which they call “Fuel Fix.” It’s a team effort to cover the largest local industry in Houston. It seems to take a fairly deferential attitude toward that industry, which is hardly surprising. It’s reminiscent of the way the Wall Street Journal covers capitalism, or ESPN covers sports. (Fun fact: one of the contributors to “Fuel Fix” is a former student of mine, Josh Cain, who’s identified as a “digital producer.”) “Fuel Fix” is useful as a roundup, but it suffers from the same problem that A.J. Liebling identified when it comes to reading conservative newspapers — it’s like learning to use a rifle that you know has a deviation to the right. You have to “correct” for the misfire. For example, here’s an AP story from the site that follows up on the Santa Barbara spill.

This one was just too awful: about 100 people in Ghana, seeking refuge from a flood, got killed when a gas station exploded.

–Last (but hardly least) in this week’s roundup is this story from The Nation about how Chevron has a whole country in its grip.

A special hat-tip here to the author, James North, the nom-de-plume for a journalist who has been covering

James North, journalist

James North, journalist

the developing world for 40 years — ever since graduating from college a few years ahead of me. (We worked together on the student newspaper.)

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This week in fossil fuels

By Christopher B. Daly 

To the best of my knowledge, no one in the mainstream media covers the fossil fuel business as a beat. So, as a public service, I am launching a series of occasional roundups to bring attention to seemingly disparate events that all flow from the world’s dependency on oil, gas, and other fossil fuels. From exploration to extraction to transportation to combustion, there are many steps in the process of using these fuels. I hope to draw collect stories and images about every phase and all the players — drillers, shippers, refiners, retailers and their many lobbyists, p.r. teams, and investors. I hope to touch on the current flashpoints involving issues like fracking and divestment, while also keeping an eye on the traditional roster of spills, blowouts, pollution, and corruption.

So, here goes:

–As if settlers from Europe have not done enough to the native peoples of the Americas, here is a story about the sale of land that is holy to the Apaches. What could be so important? You guessed it: oil

Despite these protections, in December 2014, Congress promised to hand the title for Oak Flat over to a private, Australian-British mining concern. A fine-print rider trading away the Indian holy land was added at the last minute to the must-pass military spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act. By doing this, Congress has handed over a sacred Native American site to a foreign-owned company for what may be the first time in our nation’s history.

–Here is the early stage of efforts to clean up the latest oil spill into the Pacific Ocean off Santa Barbara. (Not to be confused with the notorious 1969 spill.)

–Big Oil objects to the safeguards sought by Obama even as he gives the industry to drill in the Arctic.

Protesters carry a large sign as they rally at the Port of Seattle, Monday, May 18, 2015, in Seattle. Demonstrators opposed to Arctic oil drilling were showing opposition to a lease agreement between Royal Dutch Shell and the Port to allow some of Shell's oil drilling equipment to be based in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Protesters carry a large sign as they rally at the Port of Seattle, Monday, May 18, 2015, in Seattle. Demonstrators opposed to Arctic oil drilling were showing opposition to a lease agreement between Royal Dutch Shell and the Port to allow some of Shell’s oil drilling equipment to be based in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

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