Environment Forum

A tax by any other name…

Can semantics help save the planet?

A showdown between leaders of Chevron Corp and the Sierra Club on Wednesday night revealed a number of shared beliefs between the two California institutions, particularly about the need for a transparent way of pricing carbon.

The debate at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club on Wednesday night pitted Chevron CEO David O’Reilly against Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, and both agreed that limiting carbon emissions should involve some sort of levy imposed by the government – if only there was a word for such a thing.

“It would be much cleaner if there was a transparent cost on carbon that one could see,” O’Reilly said.

The moderator suggested that was a ‘tax’. “Nobody wants to talk about it,” O’Reilly replied. 

“Call it a fee,” Pope then suggested.

They also agreed that legislation which is workable in California or other states was not so easy to sell at a national level, even though the White House now seemed supportive, according to Pope.

Peru clashes raise green issues

Clashes in the Amazon between indigenous protestors and Peru’s army that killed some 60 people last week throw some old issues into sharp new relief: development versus the environment and local versus foreign control of natural resources.

Indigenous tribes, worried they will lose control over natural resources, have protested since April seeking to force Peru’s Congress to repeal new laws that encourage foreign mining and energy companies to invest billions of dollars in huge tracts of pristine rain forest.

In the developing world, extractive industries have a bad record of bringing benefits to local people. Prime examples include the oil-rich Niger Delta in Nigeria and mineral-rich South Africa under apartheid.

from Summit Notebook:

Kinder: wind, solar not the answer to U.S. energy needs

Rich Kinder, CEO of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, says the Obama Administration's push to develop alternative energy sources such as wind and solar are not the answer to reducing the nation's dependence on oil or reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Click below to hear where Kinder thinks the U.S. should be focusing its attention.

Kinder: wind, solar not the answer from Reuters TV on Vimeo.

Chevron CEO sees smoke and mirrors in cap and trade

“If you liked credit derivatives swaps, you’re going to love cap-and-trade.”

One can presume that Chevron Chief Executive David O’Reilly is not a fan of the current deep worldwide recession — which was worsened by a credit-market lockup blamed in part on hard-to-value securities.

And, he made it very clear on Thursday that he is not enamored of the system the Obama administration hopes to use to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, which are produced through the burning of fossil fuels sold by the No. 2 U.S. oil and gas company.

Seeking sentiment on drilling, Salazar gets an earful

There is no doubt that Californians made themselves clear on Thursday when they gathered to tell U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar that they had had enough of offshore oil drilling and were ready to turn their attention to solar, wind and other renewables.

“I think the verdict today is very clear, that drilling is inappropriate,” said Leah Zimmerman, who attended the meeting dressed in a polar bear suit.

“California is well-known for being an innovative state. Why not take advantage of that rather than trying to dampen it?” asked Craig Cadwallader of the Surfrider Foundation, a group dedicated to protecting oceans and beaches.

Group wants oil, gas drillers to follow rules in U.S. West

An environmental group this week issued a report saying oil and gas companies have enjoyed exemptions to common sense anti-pollution federal rules that govern companies in other industries. This has led, the Environmental Working Group claims, to fouled groundwater, creeks and acres and acres of formerly pristine land in the U.S. West.

The report, “Free Pass for Oil and Gas in the American West,” contains county-by-county maps of what it says are examples of mismanagement of the oil and gas industry.

“Drilling companies regularly complain that environmental standards deny them access to sites where they’d like to drill,” the EWG said. “But the cratered landscape tells a different story.”

T. Boone Pickens: What, me worry?

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens is spending $2 billion on a bunch of windmills and so far has no way to get the electricity they will produce to market. Last December he said he was a touch anxious, but on Wednesday he didn’t seem worried at all.

Pickens is pretty sure President Barack Obama will get some new power lines built to those plains in the Texas panhandle, but if need be, the oil-man-turned-renewable-energy-advocate will take his toys elsewhere.

“I’m not going to end up with 687 turbines in my garage. They are going to be sticking up spinning someplace,” he said at a San Francisco stop on his latest tour to drum up support for his plan to use wind power and natural gas-fueled vehicles to wean the Unites States from imported oil.

Are wildlife and water replacing oil and cattle in Texas?

Frates Seeligson is one of many ranchers contending with an historic drought in the hard heart of Texas. You can see a report on the situation by myself and photographer Jessica Rinaldi here.

Seeligson, an affable fourth-generation rancher who farms to the east of San Antonio in an area currently suffering from what has been dubbed “exceptional” drought conditions, told me that “there are only so many ways that you can make money from dirt.”

In Texas, much of the money from dirt has come from two commodities that have iconic status in this rough and tumble state: oil and cattle.