Tag Archives: Obama

Days before Obama announced CO2 rule, Exxon awarded Gulf of Mexico oil leases

By Steve Horn, June 3, 2o14. Source: DESMOG BLOG 

Photo by Shutterstock

Photo by Shutterstock

On Friday May 30, just a few days before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced details of its carbon rule proposal, the Obama Administration awarded offshore oil leases to ExxonMobil in an area of the Gulf of Mexico potentially containing over 172 million barrels of oil.

The U.S. Department of Interior‘s (DOI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proclaimed in a May 30 press release that the ExxonMobil offshore oil lease is part of “President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to continue to expand safe and responsible domestic energy production.”

Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell formerly worked as a petroleum engineer for Mobil, purchased as a wholly-owned subsidiary by Exxon in 1998.

Dubbed a “Private Empire” by investigative reporter Steve Coll, ExxonMobil will now have access to oil and gas in the Alaminos Canyon Area, located 170 miles east of Port Isabel, Texas. Port Isabel borders spring break and tourist hot spot South Padre Island. Continue reading

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The age of climate warfare is here

By Nafeez Ahmed, May 31, 2014. The Guardian.

 

Photograph: Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images

Photograph: Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images

During his speech at West Point Military Academy earlier this week, President Barack Obama described climate change as a “creeping national security crisis” that will require the armed forces to “respond to refugee flows, natural disasters, and conflicts over water and food.”

The speech emphasised that US foreign policy in the 21st century is increasingly being honed in recognition of heightened risks of social, political and economic upheaval around the world due the impacts of global warming.

A more detailed insight into US military planning could be seen in the report published a couple of weeks earlier by the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) Military Advisory Board, written and endorsed by a dozen or so senior retired US generals. Describing climate change as a not just a “threat multiplier,” but now – even worse – a “catalyst for conflict”, the study concluded that environmental impacts from climate change in coming decades:

“…. will aggravate stressors abroad, such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

To be sure, the link between climate change and the risk of violence is supported by many independent studies. No wonder, reports NBC News citing various former and active US officials, the Pentagon has long been mapping out strategies “to protect US interests in the aftermath of massive floods, water shortages and famines that are expected to hit and decimate unstable nations.”

But the era of climate warfare is not laying in wait, in some far-flung distant future. It has already begun, and it is accelerating – faster than most predicted. Pentagon officials and the CNA’s new study point to the Arab Spring upheavals across the Middle East and North Africa as a prime example.

As I’ve argued previously, violence and unrest in Syria and Egypt can be linked not just to the regional impacts of climate change in terms of water scarcity and food production, but also their complex interconnections with domestic oil and gas scarcity, neoliberal austerity, rampant inequality, endemic corruption, and massive political repression.

Such cases show that climate change in itself does not drive conflict – but the way in which climate change interacts with multiple related factors like declining oil production, food prices, and overlapping political, cultural and economic processes is already generating wild cards that repressive states are ill-equipped to deal with. In that context, such states resort to the thing they do best in an increasingly uncertain world: more repression.

As the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned in its latest climate impacts assessment, though, more repression just makes things even worse, triggering a vicious cycle of increasing vulnerabilty to climate destabilisation.

A new study accepted for publication in the July issue of the American Meteorological Society’s journal Weather, Climate, and Society, underscores the role of climate change and drought in Syria’s ongoing civil war, which by some accounts has taken the lives of over 150,000 people.

The research paper by Dr Peter Gleick demonstrates clearly that the Syrian conflict is not just a climate war, or a resource war, but a water war. Between 2006 and 2011, the country suffered the worst long-term drought and the most severe set of crop failures in recorded history.

This was compounded by water mismanagement and economic deterioration which, in turn, led to further agricultural failures, population dislocations and the migration of rural communities to nearby cities. The resulting combination of urban unemployment, inequality and food insecurity, affecting over a million people, heightened sectarian tensions, and helped spark the social unrest that exploded into conflict.

But the destabilising role of climate change in Syria did not come to light solely with hindsight – US officials were aware for years of the risks. In his paper, Dr Gleick, who is president of the Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment and Security – refers to leaked US diplomatic cables from the US embassy in Damascus to the State Department in Washington DC warning of the implications of the unprecedented drought. In Gleick’s words:

“That cable describes a briefing by FAO Syrian Representative Abdullah bin Yehia on drought impacts, which he described as a ‘perfect storm’ when combined with other economic and social pressure. Concerns expressed at that time also noted that the population displacements ‘could act as a multiplier on social and economic pressures already at play and undermine stability in Syria.’”

The response of the US national security apparatus (and that of its poodlish ally Britain) to such warnings is instructive. As I wrote in The Guardian last year, from 2009 through to 2011, US and UK special forces were training “Syrian opposition forces” with a view to elicit the “collapse” of Bashir al-Assad’s regime “from within.”

While that oil-soaked, blood-drenched geopolitical gamble appears to have failed, the US and regional partner Israel have accommodated themselves to what the New York Times described as a “horrific” status quo that is nevertheless “preferable to either a victory by Mr. Assad’s government and his Iranian backers or a strengthening of rebel groups, increasingly dominated by Sunni jihadis.” The west, adds America’s newspaper of record, “needs more time to prop up opposition forces it finds more palatable.”

And this, indeed, is the problem: Viewed through the narrow, self-serving, systematically abused lens of ‘national security’ (which of course is the noble title of the American intelligence agency responsible for mass surveillance of entire populations), climate change becomes not a springboard for much-need social transformation to save the planet; instead it becomes the beaten-to-death horse justifying innovative new ways to save the profits of the few who run the planet.

Take a look at the CNA’s thoughts on climate change and Africa, for instance. Africa is “an increasingly important source of US oil and gas imports,” but is “suffering tension and stress resulting from weakgovernance” and “food and water shortages” to be exacerbated by climate change. The Pentagon’s new Africa Command thus “reflects Africa’s emerging strategic importance to the US.” A “worsening ofconditions” due to climate impacts “could prompt further US militaryengagement.”

So far the record hasn’t been spectacular. Consider how the US and UK have tacitly overseen the expansion of Islamist extremism across North Africa at the behest of client-regime-aka-terror-state Algeria – all to access its oil and gas; a short-sighted strategy that indirectly led to the recent Nigeria crisis.

The securitisation of climate change – and with it the entire planet – is not leading to meaningful transformative action to transform the social relations necessary to mitigate and prevent dangerous global warming. Instead, while climate change accelerates, the corporate-military-industrial complex accelerates profits. Indeed, the very companies most responsible for climate change are set to make a killing from its intensification.

“I think climate change is a real opportunity for the aerospace and defense industry,” said Lord Drayson, then British Minister of State for Strategic Defence Acquisition Reform, in 2009.

One of the world’s largest defence contractors, Raytheon, agrees. In a briefing to the Carbon Disclosure Project last year, the corporation said that “expanded business opportunities will arise” as a result of “security concerns and their possible consequences,” due to the “effects of climate change” both at home and abroad in the form of “storms, droughts, and floods.”

This is what happens when one views the world, even with the best of intentions, through the twin lenses of military might and economic clout. We become incapable of recognising that the fundamental obstacle to addressing our global challenges is that we see enemies everywhere.

Climate change can create security risks, but to deal with them seriously, we need to stop projecting and recognise our own hand in the violence we’re so terrified of out there.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an international security journalist and academic. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It, and the forthcoming science fiction thriller, ZERO POINT. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @nafeezahmed.

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Horses, teepees arrive on Mall for KXL protest

By Darren Goode, April 22, 2014. Source: Politico

Horses, Daryl Hannah, sacred fires and Neil Young — these are some of the things you’re likely to see on the National Mall starting Tuesday as part of the latest protest against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Keystone Pipeline Protest

Things kick off Tuesday morning with a short 24-horse ride from the Capitol. Photo: AP Photo

The “Reject and Protect” protest is a weeklong event hosted by the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, a group of ranchers, farmers and leaders of seven Native American tribes. Protesters said activists also plan to project anti-pipeline messages onto the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday night, hold an interfaith ceremony outside the Georgetown home of Secretary of State John Kerry and stage an unspecified “bold and creative” bit of civil disobedience.

They’re estimating that as many as 5,000 activists will take part in a march past the Capitol on Saturday. The rest of the week is expected to be more intimate.

Things kick off Tuesday morning with a short 24-horse ride from the Capitol to a reserved area near the Reflecting Pool. The Indigo Girls will perform two songs as a ceremonial teepee is erected “that will have a clear message to the president on it,” promised Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, the state’s leading anti-pipeline group.
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Obama administration delays decision on Keystone XL pipeline

By David Lauter and Lisa Mascaro, April 18, 2014. Source: LA Times

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) calls for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline at a news conference in March on Capitol Hill. (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images / March 25, 2014)

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) calls for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline at a news conference in March on Capitol Hill. (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images / March 25, 2014)

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has delayed a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, perhaps until after November’s midterm election.

A further delay in the evaluation of the pipeline, which already has lasted more than five years, is necessary because of a Nebraska state court decision in February that invalidated part of the project’s route, the State Department said in a statement.

Shortly after the court ruling, administration officials had said the Nebraska case would not have an impact on their deliberations. But in the new statement, the State Department said federal agencies could not evaluate the pipeline’s impact until the “uncertainty created by the ongoing litigation” is resolved.

That could take awhile. Nebraska officials have appealed the case to the state Supreme Court but have said they do not expect a ruling until late this year at the earliest. Continue reading

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No conflict of interest found in favorable review of Keystone pipeline

By Coral Davenport, February 26, 2014. Source: New York Times

Obama spoke at the TransCanada Stillwater pipe yard in Cushing, Oklahoma about the Keystone XL pipeline and his energy policies on March 22, 2012. Photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images.

Obama spoke at the TransCanada Stillwater pipe yard in Cushing, Oklahoma about the Keystone XL pipeline and his energy policies on March 22, 2012. Photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images.

WASHINGTON — A State Department contractor who prepared an environmental analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline did not violate conflict-of-interest rules, even though the contractor had previously done work for TransCanada, the company seeking to build the pipeline, a State Department inspector general’s investigation concluded on Wednesday.

The results of the investigation could further pave the way for the Obama administration to approve the 1,700-mile, $5.4 billion pipeline, which would move oil from forest in Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast. The pipeline has become a critical cause to environmentalists, who view President Obama’s ultimate decision as a reflection of his commitment to fight climate change. They have rallied, protested and been arrested by the thousands in an effort to pressure him to reject the project.

Supporters of the pipeline, particularly Republicans and the fossil fuel industry, hailed the new report, saying it further strengthened their case.

“Another day and another government report that finds no reason to continue blocking this common-sense, job-creating project,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio, said in an email. “It’s long past time the president stop pandering to his extremist allies and just approve it so we can get people back to work.” Continue reading

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KPFK Earth Watch: Rhetoric versus reality in President Obama’s State of the Union speech

kpfk_logoAnne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, discusses President Obama’s comments on energy and climate change in Wednesday’s State of the Union address.

You can read Anne’s blog post on the SOTU address here.

Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK radio for a weekly Earth Minute and Earth Watch interview.

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Obama’s State of the Union: fantasy, fact, fiction or all of the above?

by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

During Obama’s State of the Union address last night the presence of the star of the reality TV show Duck Dynasty might have been the most real part of a very surreal evening.

Of particular note were Obama’s comments on energy and climate change.

While the US Southeast was being hammered by a highly unusual winter storm which stranded thousands in the metro Atlanta area, (no, this does not disprove climate change you nitwits, climate scientists have warned for years that a warming globe means extreme and unpredictable weather) Obama was proclaiming a desire to address climate change so that “when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, [we can say] yes we did.”

This sounds wonderful until we consider the “all of the above” energy strategy Obama touted earlier in the speech, which gives a nod to some of the dirtiest, most polluting and destructive energy sources.  It includes shale oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota–the gas flares of which can be seen from space.  This shale oil is so extremely volatile that in the past year two trains carrying bakken oil have exploded.  It means more coal; it means more deep water offshore drilling of the type that caused the BP oil spill disaster.  It means more nukes, even in the shadow of the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima.  And it means more fracking.  Obama made a big show of his support for natural gas “if extracted safely,” which it is not.

Obama spent exactly one paragraph on climate change.  He declared it a fact.  That anyone even needs to do that in this day and age, decades after global warming was identified as a problem, after the Northeast US was smashed by not one but two hurricanes in two consecutive years, after Super-Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, after the record droughts in Australia, Africa and the US Midwest–to name just a few climate-related catastrophes of the past 8 years–is astounding.  However, climate change is not only a fact. In my opinion it is the single greatest threat to future generations of humans and most other species.  Yet it merited only a passing mention.  One paragraph out of a 13 page speech.

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video: In honor of Schwarzenegger’s Milton Friedman Day: the Biotic Baking Brigade takes action

In commemoration of the day former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave to the notorious neoliberal economic pioneer Milton Friedman, we offer this video from the Biotic Baking Brigade.  The BBB became famous for its targeted use of the tactic of pieing corporate and economic criminals.

The video is especially timely as a retort to President Obama’s State of the Union address, which incessantly emphasized the need to grow the economy in the face of escalating crises around the planet–which are directly connected to the Capitalist obsession with growth at any cost.

Enjoy!  –The GJEP Team

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