Environment Correspondent
Deborah's Feed
Jun 7, 2010
via Environment Forum

Campaign ad equating global warming with weather gets “pants-on-fire” rating

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By now, almost everybody — with the possible exception of Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina — realizes there’s a difference between climate and weather. Fiorina, running in the California primary and ultimately aiming to unseat Democrat Barbara Boxer, paid for and appeared in a campaign ad slamming the sitting senator for being “worried about the weather” when there are serious concerns like terrorism to deal with.

Take a look here:

A few problems with this ad earned it the not-so-coveted beyond-false “Pants on Fire” rating from Politifact, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalism website that checks on the truthfulness of political advertising. First off, Boxer didn’t say she was worried about the weather. She said that climate change was “one of the very important national security issues” — a position in line with the Pentagon and the CIA. The site also found that it’s not an either/or thing, that focusing on climate change doesn’t necessarily mean neglecting national security. They took a look at Boxer’s record and found she has supported at least six bills against terrorism.

Jun 4, 2010

BP’s battered brand draws U.S. consumer opposition

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – U.S. consumers are venting frustration over the BP oil spill, demonstrating at gas stations and corporate offices, drumming up support on Facebook and waging a mock public relations campaign on Twitter.

But their opposition to BP’s handling of the crisis has yet to achieve critical mass, and any attempt to dissuade customers from fuelling their cars with BP is likely to hurt the small business owners who run the stations with little or no effect on the British oil giant’s revenues.

Jun 1, 2010
via Environment Forum

Logo designers compete to create a new oil-spill themed icon for BP

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Does BP’s now-familiar yellow-and-green sunflower logo need an update? Joe Daley thinks so. As the founder of a website that acts as a clearinghouse for logo designers around the world, Daley reckons the British oil giant’s corporate icon should reflect the spreading oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. So Daley’s launched an online contest to find an appropriate replacement logo.

These kinds of logo competitions are nothing new; that’s how the website works to match designers with businesses, with the businesses paying the prize to the winning design. Daley himself put up the $200 in prize money for the BP logo redesign contest — BP has nothing to do with it — to raise awareness of the spill.

May 27, 2010
via Environment Forum

Walruses in Louisiana? Eyebrow-raising details of BP’s spill response plan

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Louisiana walruses? Seals swimming along the Gulf Coast?

These creatures normally live in the Arctic Ocean, not the Gulf of Mexico, but they’re listed as “sensitive biological resources” that could be affected by an oil spill in the area in a document filed by BP last June with the U.S. Minerals Management Service. More than a month after BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig blew out and sank on April 20, the British oil giant’s regional spill response plan drew some severe criticism from the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

One problem with BP’s nearly 600-page spill response plan? “It was utterly useless in the event of a spill,” Jeff Ruch, PEER’s executive director, said by telephone. His group, which acts as a kind of safe haven for government whistle-blowers, detailed what it called “outright inanities”  in BP’s filing and the government’s approval of it.

May 25, 2010

70 percent of firms will spend more on climate change

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Seventy percent of firms with revenue of $1 billion or more say they plan to increase spending on climate change initiatives in the next two years, a global survey reported on Tuesday.

Nearly half of the 300 corporate executives who responded to a survey conducted for the accounting and consulting giant Ernst & Young said their climate change investments will range from 0.5 percent to more than 5 percent of revenues by 2012.

May 24, 2010
via Environment Forum

Oil-soaked sand along Gulf Coast raises memories of Exxon Valdez

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A handful of oily sand grabbed from a Louisiana wetland brought back some strong memories for Earl Kingik. As a traditional hunter and whaler in Alaska’s Arctic, it reminded him of the Exxon Valdez spill. As he and other tribal leaders toured the U.S. Gulf Coast for signs of the BP oil spill, they worried that what’s happening now in Louisiana could happen if offshore drilling proceeds off the Alaskan coast.

“There’s no way to clean up an oil spill in the Arctic,” said Kingik, an Inupiat tribal member from Point Hope, Alaska. Compared to Louisiana, where the waters are relatively calm and cleanup equipment and experts are nearby, the Arctic Ocean is a hostile place for oil and gas exploration. The Arctic leaders made their pilgrimage to the Gulf Coast as part of a campaign to block planned exploratory drilling by Shell Oil  in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

May 19, 2010

U.S. reports urge a price on climate emissions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The best way to curb global warming is to put a price on climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions, according to a trio of reports from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released on Wednesday.

In blunt language at odds with the unwieldy climate change debate in the U.S. Congress, the academy said: “A carbon-pricing system is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions. Either cap-and-trade, a system of taxing emissions, or a combination of the two could provide the needed incentives.”

May 19, 2010
via Environment Forum

So long, sardines? Lake Tanganyika hasn’t been this warm in 1,500 years

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East Africa’s Lake Tanganyika might be getting too hot for sardines.

The little fish have been an economic and nutritional mainstay for some 10 million people in neighboring Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo — four of the poorest countries on Earth. They also depend on Lake Tanganyika for drinking water.

But that could change, according to research published in the online version of the journal Nature Geoscience. Using samples of the lakebed that chart a 1,500-year history of the lake’s surface water temperature, the scientists found the current temperature — 78.8 degrees F (26 degrees C) — is the warmest it’s been in a millennium and a half. And that could play havoc with sardines and other fish the local people depend on.

May 19, 2010

BP spill spurs fears over Shell Oil’s Arctic plans

WASHINGTON/ANCHORAGE, May 19 (Reuters) – Shell Oil <RDSa.L> says it plans to drill exploratory wells off Alaska this summer in a "safe and environmentally responsible" way, but the troubled BP <BP.L> operation in the Gulf of Mexico raises concerns about how such a cleanup would work in hostile Arctic conditions.

The fatal April 20 blowout at BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig off the Gulf Coast prompted the U.S. Minerals Management Service to ask for assurances from Shell that it would be able to handle an oil spill in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, where the company has paid $3.5 billion for oil leases and plans to begin exploring in July.

Environmental groups in Alaska have urged the U.S. government to postpone Shell’s exploratory drilling until questions are answered about how they would deal with a blowout or oil spill. They say an Arctic spill could foul the habitat of polar bears, a threatened species whose sea-ice hunting grounds are melting due to climate change.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has said no new offshore drilling permits will be issued until a government panel issues a safety report on the BP spill, due May 28.

On Wednesday, a coalition of environmental groups ran a full page ad in The Washington Post and The New York Times urging readers to call the White House to object to the prospect of Shell’s offshore drilling in the Arctic.

Shell’s president, Marvin Odom, acknowledged "the tragedy of the Gulf of Mexico blowout and oil spill" and said his company had learned from it. "We have already begun to enhance our operational excellence in light of this incident and we will continuously make adjustments as new learnings are revealed," he said.

In a May 14 letter responding to MMS chief Elizabeth Birnbaum’s concerns, Odom said Shell planned to drill in shallower water — some 150 feet (46 meters) deep as compared to the 5,000-foot (1.5 km) depth of BP’s wellhead in the Gulf of Mexico — and under much less well pressure.

"Our biggest safety advantage is the water depth that will allow us to detect and respond to an event quickly and appropriately," he wrote.

Odom said Shell would be ready with "oil spill response assets in one hour," and said the colder, more viscous water of the Arctic would "provide greater opportunities to recover oil."

IS SHALLOW WATER SAFER?

The Pew Environment Group’s Arctic Program disputed these statements, saying that the nearest cleanup vessels, equipment and personnel were based in Barrow, Alaska, 100 miles (161 km) from the Chukchi Sea lease sites, too far to deploy quickly.

Pew’s Marilyn Heiman noted that Shell had said a blowout like the Deepwater Horizon’s would be highly unlikely in the Chukchi Sea because such accidents are "extremely rare" in such shallow water.

Heiman cited a 2007 MMS study that found 19 of the 39 offshore blowouts that occurred between 1992 and 2006 happened in water less than 200 feet (61 metres) deep.

"Basic questions remain about Shell’s ability to respond to any significant sized oil spill in Arctic waters," Heiman said. "MMS should suspend offshore lease operations in the Arctic until these issues are addressed. It would be irresponsible to move forward."

Postponing Shell’s exploratory offshore drilling, possibly for another year, would be a "huge setback for the Alaskan economy," according to Jason Brune, executive director of the Resource Development Council for Alaska. Brune said risks were evaluated before the leases were sold.

Alaska’s congressional delegates also favored Shell’s plans. Democratic Senator Mark Begich told a Chamber of Commerce forum on Monday that Shell is responding adequately to the MMS request for more information.

"It’s an effort to show that we can do this development the right way up here," Begich said. "We’ve done it. We’ve worked in extreme conditions and have had OCS (outer continental shelf) development."

"Just because it’s difficult doesn’t mean we pull back in any way," said Senator Lisa Murkowski at the same forum.

There has never been any major commercial oil production from federal offshore territory in Alaska, and the state would get no royalties or tax revenue from Shell’s offshore development. The only all-offshore oil operation in federal waters off Alaska is being developed by BP.

Alaskan leaders maintain new oil production in federal waters is needed to keep the trans-Alaska oil pipeline in business. Oil flow through this pipeline from Alaska’s North Slope is down to about one-third of its peak level of 2 million barrels reached in 1988.

(Editing by Doina Chiacu)





May 18, 2010

Environment lawsuit: MMS waived oil safety rules

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Minerals Management Service, which grants offshore drilling permits, set aside safety regulations for oil exploration in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, environmental groups alleged in a lawsuit on Tuesday.

In a 2008 notice to oil companies with drilling leases off the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama — areas now threatened by the spill from the BP Deepwater Horizon rig — the agency known as MMS waived requirements for documentation on what would be done in case of a blowout or a “worst-case scenario” spill, the lawsuit said.

    • About Deborah

      "I started with Reuters in 1986 in New York City, moving to Washington DC two years later. I've covered the Winter Olympics in Calgary and Salt Lake City, a couple wars, the State Department, White House, Pentagon, several long trials and a presidential sex scandal. Since 2006, I've been reporting on the environment and climate change."
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