Month: January 2018

King Coal in #India is about to crash! #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol It doesn’t stack up.

By Silvio Marcacci

Silvio is Communications Director at Energy Innovation, where he leads all public relations and communications efforts.

India Coal Power Is About To Crash: 65% Of Existing Coal Costs More Than New Wind And Solar

King Coal’s reign in India is about to come crashing down .

Coal supplied 80% of India’s total power mix in 2016-2017, but economics have flipped the country’s energy equation – new renewable energy is now cheaper to build than running most existing coal-fired power plants.

Renewable energy costs have fallen 50% in two years, and are forecast to continue dropping apace.

New wind and solar is now 20% cheaper than existing coal-fired generation’s average wholesale power price, and 65% of India’s coal power generation is being sold at higher rates than new renewable energy bids in competitive power auctions.

The tipping point may have been 2016-2017, when renewable energy installations surpassed coal for the first time, adding twice the capacity.

Coal plants nationwide already only run around half of the time, nearly every Indian coal plant violates the country’s new air pollution standard, and India’s Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has proposed closing nearly 50 GW of coal capacity by 2027.

Retrofitting the plants that remains open will each cost millions to achieve compliance, so running already uneconomic plants will get more expensive as plants run less often and generate less profit.

But while India’s power demand will double over the next decade, its draft National Electricity Plan (NEP) calls for rising demand to be met with 275 gigawatts (GW) total renewable energy capacity by 2027, without requiring new coal plants beyond those already under construction.

As ever-cheaper renewable energy comes online, increasingly expensive coal generation will fall further from profitability. So how can India’s power sector handle this looming coal crash?

New Wind And Solar Are 20% Cheaper Than India’s Existing Coal Power

Similar to the United States, it’s increasingly difficult for Indian coal generation to compete economically with fast-falling renewable energy costs, according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).

Recommended by Forbes

IEEFA finds India’s wind and solar energy costs have fallen 50% to as low as $38 per megawatt hour (MWh) over the past two years, with renewable energy bids in new auctions costing 20% less than the cost of wholesale electricity from existing Indian coal generation, and 30-50% less than the required cost to justify new imported coal or liquefied natural gas capacity.

India coal power prices compared to solar auction prices 2012-2017

In 2016-2017, India added 15.7 GW renewable energy capacity (2.5 times the 6.5 GW added in 2015-2016), compared to 7.7 GW net coal installations (65% less than average installs over the previous four years). IEEFA forecasts India will add 14 GW new renewable energy capacity in 2017-2018, more than doubling the 5.8 GW expected net coal additions.

IEEFA

India power generation capacity additions by technology 2012-2018

India’s 2027 renewable energy target requires 57% of installed capacity to come from non-thermal energy, necessitating 21-22 GW annual renewable installations. CEA expects 317 GW peak national power demand in 2026-2027, 20.7% lower than its previous estimate, thus requiring no new coal capacity beyond the 50 GW of coal currently under construction. IEEFA estimates less than 5 GW annual net coal power installations over the next decade, with more than 2.5 GW in annual retirements of the oldest and dirtiest generation.

Because power demand has risen slower than expected and renewable energy has come online faster than expected, national coal-fired power plant capacity factors (how often a plant runs) fell from 77.5% in 2010 to 56.7% in 2016-2017. The 50 GW of planned coal could push national coal capacity factors as low as 50%, just as gigawatts of cheap renewables come online, meaning unless new plants replace retiring capacity they could come online as stranded assets.

Expensive (And Dirty) Coal’s $8 Billion Annual Bill

Stranded assets are already a problem for Indian’s coal fleet – the India-run Numerical service estimates 17 coal-fired plants totaling 18.4 GW capacity worth roughly $30 billion are currently stranded assets – and the problem isn’t going to improve anytime soon.

Two-thirds of existing Indian coal generation is now more expensive than solar or wind generation , and keeping these power plants running costs India billions every year, according to Greenpeace research comparing CEA 2015-2016 coal power generation data to new renewable energy project bids. At least 65% of India’s current coal power generation (94 GW of installed capacity) is being sold to distribution utilities at rates higher than the cost of new solar and wind. Roughly 30 GW of this total is more than 20 years old, and ran at a 53% average capacity factor in 2016.

Potential annual savings by replacing coal with renewable energy

Greenpeace reports replacing the 94 GW of uneconomic coal generation with solar or wind energy would save Indian industrial and residential consumers $8 billion per year, but even replacing the 30 GW of older uneconomic coal would reduce annual power costs by $3 billion.

Press link for more: Forbes.com

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On the Brink of Collapse #auspol #qldpol #climatechange #StopAdani

System Failure

29th January 2018

Is complex society on the brink of collapse?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 24th January 2018

It’s a good question, but it seems too narrow. “Is Western civilisation on the brink of collapse?”, the lead article in this week’s New Scientist asks.

The answer is probably.

But why just Western?

Yes, certain Western governments are engaged in a frenzy of self-destruction.

In an age of phenomenal complexity and interlocking crises, the Trump administration has embarked on a mass deskilling and simplification of the state. Donald Trump might have sacked his strategist Steve Bannon, but Bannon’s professed intention, “the deconstruction of the administrative state”, remains the central – perhaps the only – policy.

Defunding departments, disbanding the teams and dismissing the experts they rely on, shutting down research programmes, maligning the civil servants who remain in post, the self-hating state is ripping down the very apparatus of government. At the same time, it is destroying the public protections that defend us from disaster.

A series of studies published in the past few months have started to explore the wider impact of pollutants. One, published in the British Medical Journal, suggests that the exposure of unborn children to air pollution in cities is causing “something approaching a public health catastrophe”. Pollution in the womb is now linked to low birth weight, disruption of the baby’s lung and brain development, and a series of debilitating and fatal diseases in later life.

Another report, published in the Lancet, suggests that three times as many deaths are caused by pollution as by AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. Pollution, the authors note, now “threatens the continuing survival of human societies.” A collection of articles in the journal PLOS Biology reveals that there is no reliable safety data on most of the 85,000 synthetic chemicals to which we may be exposed. While hundreds of these chemicals “contaminate the blood and urine of nearly every person tested”, and the volume of materials containing them rises every year, we have no idea what the likely impacts may be, either singly or in combination.

As if in response to such findings, the Trump government has systematically destroyed the integrity of the Environmental Protection Agency, ripped up the Clean Power Plan, vitiated environmental standards for motor vehicles, reversed the ban on chlorpyrifos (a pesticide now linked to the impairment of cognitive and behavioural function in children), and rescinded a remarkable list of similar public protections.

In the UK, successive governments have also curtailed their ability to respond to crises. One of David Cameron’s first acts on taking office was to shut down the government’s early warning systems: the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the Sustainable Development Commission. He did not want to hear what they were telling him. Sack the impartial advisers and replace them with toadies: this has preceded the fall of empires many times before. Now, as we detach ourselves from the European Union, we degrade our capacity to solve the problems that transcend our borders.

But these pathologies are not confined to “the West”. The rise of demagoguery (the pursuit of simplistic solutions to complex problems, accompanied by the dismantling of the protective state) is everywhere apparent. Environmental breakdown is accelerating worldwide. The annihilation of vertebrate populations, Insectageddon, the erasure of rainforests, mangroves, soil, aquifers, the degradation of entire Earth systems, such as the atmosphere and the oceans, proceed at astonishing rates. These interlocking crises will affect everyone, but the poorer nations are hit first and worst.

The forces that threaten to destroy our well-being are also everywhere the same: primarily the lobbying power of big business and big money, that perceive the administrative state as an impediment to their immediate interests. Amplified by the persuasive power of campaign finance, covertly-funded thinktanks, embedded journalists and tame academics, these forces threaten to overwhelm democracy. If you want to know how they work, read Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money.

Up to a certain point, connectivity increases resilience. For example, if local food supplies fail, regional or global markets allow us to draw on production elsewhere. But beyond a certain level, connectivity and complexity threaten to become unmanageable. The emergent properties of the system, combined with the inability of the human brain to encompass it, could spread crises rather than contain them. We are in danger of pulling each other down. New Scientist should have asked “is complex society on the brink of collapse?”.

Complex societies have collapsed many times before. We live in a sort of civilisational interglacial, a brief respite from social entropy. It has always been a question of when, not if. But “when” is beginning to look like “soon”.

The collapse of states and social complexity has not always been a bad thing. As James C Scott points out in his fascinating book Against the Grain, the dissolution of the earliest states, that were founded on slavery and coercion, is likely to have been experienced by many people as an emancipation. When centralised power began to collapse, through epidemics, crop failure, floods, soil erosion or the self-destructive perversities of government, its corralled subjects would take the chance to flee. In many cases they joined the “barbarians”.

This so-called “secondary primitivism”, Scott notes, “may well have been experienced as a marked improvement in safety, nutrition and social order. Becoming a barbarian was often a bid to improve one’s lot.” The dark ages that inexorably followed the glory and grandeur of the state may, in that era, have been the best times to be alive.

But today there is nowhere to turn. The wild lands and rich ecosystems that once supported hunter gatherers, nomads and the refugees from imploding early states who joined them now scarcely exist. Only a tiny fraction of the current population could survive a return to the barbarian life. (Consider that, according to one estimate, the maximum population of Britain during the Mesolithic, when people survived by hunting and gathering, was 5000). In the nominally democratic era, the complex state is now, for all its flaws, all that stands between us and disaster.

So what we do? Next week, barring upsets, I will propose a new way forward. The path we now follow is not the path we have to take.

http://www.monbiot.com

Press link for more: Monbiot.com

#ClimateChange May Hit Farm Income. #India #auspol #qldpol #StopAdani #agriculture

‘Climate change may hit farm income’

Vikas Vasudeva

The Economic Survey 2017-18, said farmer income losses from climate change could be between 15% and 18% on an average, rising to anywhere between 20%-25% in unirrigated areas of the country.

“Applying IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)-predicted temperatures and projecting India’s recent trends in precipitation, and assuming no policy responses, give rise to estimates for farm income losses of 15% to 18% on average, rising to 20%-25% for unirrigated areas,” pointed out the Survey, adding that at current levels of farm income, that translates into more than ₹3,600 per year for the median farm household.

“[The] Prime Minister’s goal of doubling farmers’ incomes — increasingly runs up against the contemporary realities of Indian agriculture, and the harsher prospects of its vulnerability to long-term climate change,” pointed out the survey, adding that India needed to expand irrigation – and do so against a backdrop of rising water scarcity and depleting groundwater resources.

“In the 1960s, less than 20% of agriculture was irrigated, now this number is in the mid-40s. The Indo-Gangetic plain, and parts of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are well irrigated. But parts of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand are still extremely vulnerable to climate change on account of not being well irrigated,” said the survey.

“Fully irrigating Indian agriculture, that too against the backdrop of water scarcity and limited efficiency in existing irrigation schemes, will be a defining challenge for the future. Technologies of drip irrigation, sprinklers and water management — captured in the “more crop for every drop” campaign — may well hold the key to future Indian agriculture,” said the survey, adding that power subsidy needs to be replaced by direct benefit transfers so that power use can be fully costed and water conservation furthered.

Temperature shocks

Extreme temperature shocks reduce farmer incomes by 4.3% and 4.1% during kharif and rabi respectively, whereas extreme rainfall shocks reduce incomes by 13.7% and 5.5%. “Once again, these average effects mask significant heterogeneity, with the largest adverse effects of weather shocks being felt in unirrigated areas, it said. Ex-ante it is not clear which direction farm revenues should move in — on the one hand, these shocks reduce yields, but on the other, the lower supply should increase local prices. The results here clearly indicate that the “supply shock” dominates — reductions in yields lead to reduced revenues,” said the Survey.

The Survey observes that while thinking about agricultural policy reforms in India, it is vital to make a clear distinction between two agricultures in India.

“There is an agriculture — the well-irrigated, input-addled, and price-and-procurement-supported cereals grown in Northern India — where the challenge is for policy to change the form of the very generous support from prices and subsidies to less damaging support in the form of direct benefit transfers. On the other hand there is another agriculture (broadly, non-cereals in central, western and southern India) where the problems are very different such as inadequate irrigation, continued rain dependence, ineffective procurement, and insufficient investments in research and technology (non-cereals such as pulses, soyabeans, and cotton), high market barriers and weak post-harvest infrastructure (fruits and vegetables), and challenging non-economic policy (livestock),” it said.

Press link for more: The Hindu

We’re paying a fearsome price for global warming. #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Americans are paying a fearsome price for global warming.

The federal government’s National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported earlier this week that the three powerful Atlantic hurricanes of 2017 — Harvey, Irma and Maria — cost Americans $265 billion, and massive Western forest fires another $18 billion.

Scientists have shown that human-induced climate change has greatly increased the frequency and intensity of such disasters

Jeffrey Sachs

This week, New York City showed bold leadership with decisive action for climate safety and justice.

The oil companies have known for decades that their product is dangerous for the planet, but they relentlessly hid the evidence, stoking confusion rather than solutions.

Through individual company efforts to support climate denialism and confusion, and through relentless and reckless lobbying by the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Petroleum Institute, the companies launched a full-blown assault on climate science to stop or delay the shift to renewable energy.

Big Oil bought the Republican Congress with massive campaign donations.

Republican senators led the witless Donald Trump to pull out of the Paris Agreement.

(Meanwhile in Australia)

There are alternatives to runaway climate change.

North America (Like Australia) has vast reserves of wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and other zero-carbon energy to power the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

New York can go green and electric by midcentury through electric vehicles, electricity-powered public transit, and electric heat pumps for buildings, powered by electricity from wind, solar and hydroelectric power.

The city has produced a road map to reduce emissions by 80% by 2050.

Based on the rapid progress of zero-carbon energy systems and smart cities, I believe that a 100% reduction — full decarbonization — is likely to be feasible and advisable, well before 2050.

Despite these effective and economical options, the retrograde coal, oil and gas producers are trying to stop the transition to clean and safe energy.

They are willfully and knowingly imposing vast damages on the public to continue their destructive activities, by promoting more drilling for fossil energy, opposing climate change policies such as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, and pretending that natural gas is an “environmentally friendly” energy source when in fact the world urgently needs to move to zero-carbon energy.

New Yorkers alone are paying tens of billions of dollars to rebuild from Hurricane Sandy and to protect against rising sea levels.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and other city leaders are saying that enough is enough: enough lies, enough CO2 and methane emissions, enough massive flooding, and enough corporate greed.

It’s time for the industry to clean up and pay up for the damages from its misdeeds.

The city announced two important steps this week.

The first is divestment — selling the investments in fossil fuel companies that are in the city’s $189 billion pension funds.

Fossil fuel is a lousy investment in the 21st century.

The scientific evidence is clear.

To meet the limits on global warming set in Paris, we have to decarbonize the energy system by midcentury at the latest.

Even if we do, we still will face high costs for generations to come from the climate change that has already occurred.

Yet we still have the chance to head off a catastrophic rise in warming that could lead to several meters of sea level rise and other disasters to health and safety.

By divesting, New York joins other investors who have gotten rid of fossil fuel investments in sending a powerful message to the major oil companies: Transition out of your world-threatening activities.

It’s past time to stop drilling for more oil and gas when the world already has in proven reserves much more than could ever safely be used, and invest instead in wind, solar, hydro and other low-carbon energy sources.

The world will have to “strand” some large portion of the coal, oil and gas reserves already discovered.

There is certainly no need to develop new, high-cost oil and gas fields in Alaska, the Arctic or coastal waters.

The second step is a lawsuit calling for five major oil companies — BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell — to compensate New York for damages from climate change.

By bringing the lawsuit, the city joins a growing wave of climate litigation that attempts to hold the fossil-fuel industry accountable in court.

Two recent advances in knowledge make such lawsuits both timely and powerful.

First, careful researchers have collected data showing the contributions by specific oil companies to the world’s overall CO2 and methane emissions. Those data demonstrate the large share of emissions due to oil and gas production by the major companies after 1980 — that is, during the period when the companies already knew or should have known of the great dangers caused by their products.

Second, climate science can now offer an assessment of the damages that can reasonably be attributed to the companies’ products. The attribution is generally stated in the form of a probability or a frequency, for example, that a particular massive flood surge was twice as likely, or 10 times as likely, because of global warming.

This is the same kind of assessment we make when we say that a particular case of lung cancer was most likely caused by smoking even though the cancer may have occurred without smoking. Courts often assess liability on the basis of such probabilities.

No doubt the oil companies will fight back with huge teams of lawyers and lobbyists. The lawsuits are an uphill battle. But the world’s people will be rooting for New York and other plaintiffs in this important effort. How much better it would be if the companies honestly acknowledged their wrongs and declared to the world that they are prepared to work for, and partly pay for, realistic solutions for climate safety.

Press link for more: CNN.COM

Get used to ‘Global Weirding’ #auspol #qldpol #ClimateChange #StopAdani

‘Global weirding’ to blame for west coast flooding, says MUN research scientist

Brett Favaro argues people need to be better prepared to withstand extreme weather

Floodwaters surround homes and other buildings Jan.14 in Trout River, on Newfoundland’s Northern Peninsula. (Twitter/@cormier_keith)

A Memorial University fisheries scientist and conservation biologist says the recent flooding shows why people should prepare for more frequent weather disasters.

“I feel like we’re seeing a window into our future.

The world is changing, the climate is changing, and it’s changing because of human activities,” Brett Favaro, told CBC’s St. John’s Morning Show on Friday.

“What we do in response to that change is really important, and what we’re seeing now is all this infrastructure being destroyed and damaged by disasters that are related to weather events, and we know that with climate change, as it gets worse, the weather is going to get crazier as well.”

‘Global weirding’

Favaro calls it “global weirding” — a term he credits to Canadian climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, referring to an increase in weather phenomena that residents of an area haven’t seen before, as with the west coast’s flash-flooding due to high temperatures combined with frozen ground.

‘These things are going to happen over and over again, and we’re seeing this all across the world in terms of really damaging hurricanes, wildfires, and all sorts of other disasters.’ – Brett Favaro

“I think this is a great example of it, of how you get these events that just don’t make sense in the context of people’s experiences.”

What it means is that people need to make decisions about how we rebuild, he said.

“Nothing in preparation makes sense except in light of climate change. You have to look at this stuff through a climate change lens,” he said.

Climate-change rapid response

“What used to be a one-in-100-year flood is now likely to be a one-in-10, or one-in-five-year flood. These things are going to happen over and over again, and we’re seeing this all across the world in terms of really damaging hurricanes, wildfires, and all sorts of other disasters.”

The province should have a climate change rapid-response plan, he said. And instead of putting in the same types of roads and culverts, more resilient infrastructure needs to be put in place, he added.

MUN researcher Brett Favaro says last weekend’s flooding shows people should get used to more extreme weather events. (Sarah Smellie/CBC)

“We should review every piece of infrastructure in the province, and say to ourselves, if this thing gets wiped out by weather, or severely damaged by weather, or really any disaster, what are we going to put in its place?

And how are we going to be reasonably sure that it’ll be able to take what nature’s going to throw at it over the next number of years?”

Pay now or pay later

Something that can make climate change preparation a tough sell — literally — is the cost of more durable infrastructure, he said. But, he added, we’ll wind up paying one way or another.

“We can pay now. We can spend a little bit more on these infrastructure projects that we put in and make them resilient to climate change,” he said. “Or we can pay later. We can just have the disasters happen and just keep rebuilding it over and over again.”

Press link for more: CBC.CA

Trump misunderstands basic facts #ClimateChange #StopAdani #auspol #qldpol

Donald Trump appears to misunderstand basic facts of climate change in Piers Morgan interview

Josh Gabbatiss Science CorrespondentSunday 28 January 2018 12:25 GMT

Mr Trump felt global restrictions on fossil fuel use were unfair for America ITV

Donald Trump has expressed doubts over the existence of climate change, as it is understood by the vast majority of scientists.

After proclaiming his belief in “clean air and clean water”, the US President questioned some of the central tenets of climate science in an interview with Piers Morgan.

Mr Trump also repeated previous statements that he could “go back” into the Paris climate agreement, but said that he would only make such a decision if he could get “a good deal” for the US.

Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change

(In Australia Prime Minister Turnbull struggles with the science)

When asked if he believed in the existence of climate change, however, Mr Trump’s answer did not chime with the scientific consensus.

“There is a cooling, and there’s a heating.

I mean, look, it used to not be climate change, it used to be global warming.

That wasn’t working too well because it was getting too cold all over the place,” he said.

Global warming and climate change are often used interchangeably, but in fact refer to slightly different things.

The two are not mutually exclusive.

While global warming refers only to the Earth’s rising surface temperature, climate change is a broader term that includes the other effects of carbon pollution, such as changing weather patterns.

There have been several studies gauging the consensus among climate scientists on human-caused global warming, with 97 per cent emerging as an accurate estimate of the proportion who accept it.

“The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records. They’re at a record level,” Mr Trump continued.

Mr Trump’s comments echo arguments often made by climate change sceptics that global warming has stopped, or even reversed, in recent years.

Recent figures from the Met Office, Nasa and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed 2017 was one of the hottest years ever recorded.

These temperatures came as little surprise to climate scientists, as they are a continuation of the upward temperature trend that has been on-going for decades.

AFP/Getty)

“Forget what the sceptics will tell you, climate change is real and is happening right now,” said Professor Martin Siegert, a climate change expert at Imperial College London, in response to the new figures.

As for polar ice levels, data shows that they are indeed – as Mr Trump stated – at “a record level”, although not the level he had in mind. Last year Nasa reported record lows in sea ice extent in both the Arctic and the Antarctic.

Though as with global temperature data, there are always fluctuations in sea ice levels from year to year, scientists always consider long-term trends when analysing climate data, and these are what they base their conclusions on.

The Paris climate agreement was set up in order to stop global temperatures rising 1.5C above pre-industrial times, a target that is likely to be missed by the middle of the century unless there is an unprecedented shift away from global fossil fuel consumption.

Mr Trump opted to pull the US out of the agreement, as he felt restrictions on fossil fuel use were unfair for the country.

He described the agreement as “a disaster”.

“If somebody said go back into the Paris accord, it would have to be a completely different deal because we had a horrible deal. As usual, they took advantage of the US,” Mr Trump said.

“Would I go back in? Yeah, I’d go back in … but it’s got to be a good deal for the US.”

Donald Trump says “I would have negotiated Brexit differently”

Mr Trump noted his liking for French President Emmanuel Macron, who last year said he would offer grants to US-based climate scientists to replace the funding lost under the Trump administration as part of a “Make Our Planet Great Again” scheme.

Emmanuel Macron stated at the One Planet summit in Paris last year that the world is “losing the battle” against climate change.

“We’re not moving quick enough. We all need to act,” he said.

President Trump – The Piers Morgan Interview was set to air on ITV at 10pm on Sunday.

Press link for more: Independent.co.uk

#Corruption & #Fossilfuels Go hand in hand. #auspol #qldpol Federal #ICAC now! #StopAdani

With corruption investigations widening, oil companies face reckoning

Investigations increase scrutiny on agreements

By James OsborneJanuary 26, 2018 Updated: January 27, 2018 6:00pm

Photo: YASUYOSHI CHIBA, AFP/Getty Images

An oil platform is temporaly stationed at Guanabara bay in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / YASUYOSHI CHIBAYASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/Getty Images

WASHINGTON – It started with Brazil’s national oil company, then the clients of a consulting firm in Monaco and two of Europe’s largest oil companies, and with each revelation came new investigations involving new companies.

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Big names in Houston’s energy world, like KBR, Shell and SBM Offshore, were suddenly having to explain how they came to win drilling rights and contracts worth billions of dollars in countries like Nigeria, Angola and Brazil.

For close to a century oil fortunes have been made and lost in the developing world, but a series of sprawling corruption investigations has thrown a wrench into that paradigm, ensnaring oil and gas corporations around the world, while putting a microscope on how countries come to sign over rights to their oil and mineral deposits.

RELATED: Venezuela prosecutor orders arrest of former state oil chief

Breaking down the scandals

Unaoil scandal

A small consulting firm in Monaco is accused of bribing government officials around the globe to help clients win drilling rights.

Some of the companies implicated: FMC Technologies, Weatherford International and KBR.

Status: Investigation by U.K. and U.S. authorities ongoing.

Petrobras scandal

Executives at Brazil’s national oil company are accused of taking bribes for contracts and then funneling that money to politicians.

Some of the companies implicated: TransOcean, Keppel Offshore & Marine, SBM Offshore.

Status: Investigation by Brazilian and U.S. authorities continues.

Nigeria scandal

Two European oil majors are accused of knowingly paying $1.1 billion in bribes to a former oil minister and his associates to win offshore drilling rights.

Companies involved: Shell and Eni.

Status: Trial scheduled for March in Milan.

Nations – developed and developing alike – are taking a harder line on bribes and self-dealing long swept under the rug. At the same time, digital leaks such as the Panama Papers are making public vast troves of incriminating corporate and government documents that in an earlier age might never seen the light of day.

Such investigations have touched a multitude of industries – from telecom to technology and health care. But considering its long history operating in the developing world, none are as exposed as the oil and gas industry, which is centered in Houston and drives the Texas economy.

“I don’t want to say this is the new normal, but this should not be viewed as a high water mark,” said Jason Varnado, a former U.S. prosecutor in Houston and now an attorney with international law firm Jones Day. “No industry operates in more high risk markets than the energy industry.”

Two scandals

In the span of less than a month last year, the Houston-based subsidiaries of oil equipment giants Keppel Offshore & Marine and SBM Offshore both pleaded guilty to bribery charges stemming from a long-running Brazilian corruption investigation. The companies agreed to pay the U.S. Justice Department a combined $660 million in penalties.

British and American prosecutors, meanwhile, are moving ahead on an investigation into how a Monaco firm came to arrange contracts across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia. The case has drawn in players from across the global oil industry, including the Houston firms FMC Technologies, Weatherford International and KBR, a former subsidiary of Haliburton.

In March, top executives from Royal Dutch Shell and the Italian oil major Eni will go on trial in Milan in what is billed as the largest corporate bribery case in history. Among the accused are Shell’s former head of international oil development, Malcolm Brinded, and Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi, who are alleged to have paid $1.1 billion to a former Nigerian oil minister to gain access to a lucrative oil field off the West African coast.

Translator

To read this article in one of Houston’s most-spoken languages, click on the button below.

Driving the trials and plea deals are two scandals. In Brazil, an ongoing corruption investigation has uncovered that executives at the state-owned oil company Petrobras took billions of dollars in bribes in exchange for awarding lucrative oil field contracts, part of a sweeping network of graft that has led to charges against numerous Brazilian government officials, including former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

RELATED: Is Braskem still an acquisition target for LyondellBasell?

In 2016, the Australian newspaper The Age and the Huffington Post published a damning report that an obscure family-owned company in Monaco, named Unaoil, had paid millions of dollars in bribes Iraq, Iran, Angola, Lybia and other countries. In exchange, billions of dollars in oil field contracts went to some of the world’s largest corporations, including the British manufacturer Rolls Royce and the Korean conglomerate Samsung, in addition to a laundry list oil and gas companies.

The publications cited a “a vast cache of leaked emails and documents,” setting off multiple investigations around the globe.

None of the companies cited in this story would discuss the investigations. But many have expressed concern over the role of corruption in their industry.

“KBR is committed to conducting its business honestly, with integrity, and in compliance with all applicable laws,” a company spokeswoman said. “We do not tolerate illegal or unethical practices by our employees or others working on behalf of the company.”

Of the more than 28 oil and gas companies that have disclosed active investigations for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, 20 of those are related to Brazil and Unaoil, according to Richard Cassin, an attorney who publishes the corruption-focused website FCPA Blog.

“It’s a snowball effect, where once the initial corruption was exposed, all the other actors caught up in it started to get in trouble,” said Alexandra Gillies, an advisor to Natural Resource Governance Institute, a New York nonprofit.

13 years of bribes

In the case of Keppel, the world’s largest builder of offshore rigs and a major employer in Houston, Brazilian prosecutors traced the bribery scheme to around 2001, when the company won a contract to construct a floating oil platform for Petrobras.

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Over the next 13 years Keppel, which is headquartered in Singapore, spent $55 million on bribes in exchange for inside information and favorable treatment that allowed them to win a series of offshore contracts, according to court filings by the Justice Department.

At one point Keppel’s string of Petrobras contracts was threatened when it partnered with an unnamed company, whose corporate rules forbid bribes to foreign officials. An unnamed executive at Keppel complained in a 2007 email that the company might need to stop using a consultant through whom it paid the bribes, lamenting that the partner was “so hand-tied to the U.S. Code of Business Conduct” that it put the chances of winning projects at risk.

The scheme came crashing down in 2015, when Brazilian law enforcement arrested a former Petrobras executive at a Rio De Janeiro airport and then enlisted his son to wear a wiretap in a meeting with a top official in Brazil’s legislature. In the years since, a number companies have been accused of paying bribes to Petrobras, including TransOcean, the Swiss offshore contracting giant which maintains major operations in Houston.

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In a filing in October, Transocean said it investigated the accusation and had not “identified any wrongdoing by any of our employees or agents.”

“There is global attention being paid to this sort of conduct. People are alert to it and care about it, and governments are harnessing that,” said Phil Bezanson, an attorney at the law firm Bracewell. “The U.S. government is working much more closely with law enforcement in other countries. There’s much more coordination going on.”

International cooperation

The United States enacted the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 1977 following a series of high profile scandals, but it’s only in the last two decades enforcement has picked up. More recently, countries including Italy, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands have joined the United States in chasing bribery cases abroad.

In the developing world, citizens are increasing pressure on governments to take action against corruption after decades of acceptance, said Olanrewaju Suraju, an activist with Human and Environmental Development Agenda Resource Center, a Nigerian nonprofit. Nigeria and some 50 other resource-rich countries are pledging to disclose to the public how much revenue they’re taking in through oil and gas production and mining, through an international consortium called the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

“Corruption touches every aspect of the Nigerian life: the astronomical death rate of children under the age of five, the high accident rate on the roads because money meant to maintain the road was taken by other people and the level of recruitment by Boka Haram, because youth meant to find gainful employment and education were not given the opportunity,” Suraju said. “I think it is not going to be business as usual anymore.”

The impact of international cooperation is already visible. In 2016, the Justice Department and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, aided by investigators abroad, resolved a record 25 foreign bribery cases, collecting $2.4 billion in penalties, according to a report last year by the international law firm Jones Day, which maintains offices across 18 countries.

At the same time, a new age of digital sleuthing, through which whistleblowers, hackers or both have exposed government and corporate secrets through releases such as the Panama and Paradise papers, which made public millions of documents revealing how some of the world’s most powerful politicians and business leaders used offshore accounts to avoid paying taxes and cover up unsavory business practices.

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Corporate emails obtained by the international nonprofit Global Witness, which focuses on corruption and the exploitation of natural resources, have aided Italy’s investigation into how Shell and Eni won an offshore block in Nigeria.

The case began after the two consultants that set up the deal filed lawsuits in the United Kingdom claiming they had not been paid their cut of the alleged bribes. At issue was the $1.1 billion Shell and Eni paid to the Nigerian government for rights to the offshore block.

That money was then to be passed to Malabu Oil and Gas, a company controlled by the former Nigerian oil minister and convicted money launderer Dan Etete. For years, Shell said it was unaware of what happened to the money, but emails obtained by Global Witness indicated that the company knew the money was going to Malabu.

“He spoke to Mrs E this morning. She says E claims he will only get 300m we offering-rest goes in paying people off,” a Shell employee wrote to executives in 2009, according to a report published by Global Witness last year.

Barnaby Pace, the lead investigator on the Nigeria case for Global Witness, wouldn’t say how he got access to those emails, but noted that digitization was making possible the transfer of large quantities of documents that once would have required a fleet of trucks.

“The Panama Papers was 2.6 terabytes of data,” Pace said. It’s incredible the ease and amount of material we can get access to if people are stupid enough to put it in emails and text messages.”

Do the right thing

Whether the rush of scandals will change how companies behave abroad is something activists will watch in the years ahead. But demands for bribes in countries where corruption is ingrained are unlikely to go away all together.

“I see companies trying to be good actors in this space,” said Varnado, the former federal prosecutor, “but particularly in energy there’s some inherent challenges that make that difficult.”

Before stepping into the White House, President Donald Trump had criticized the Foreign Corrupts Practices Act in a 2012 interview, calling it a “horrible law” that makes it hard for U.S. companies operating overseas. That has raised questions about how diligently his administration would enforce the law.

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So far, the Justice Department has urged companies to come forward when they discover wrongdoing within their ranks. Under a policy announced by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein last year, companies that self-report bribing foreign officials are likely to receive reduced financial penalties and might avoid criminal charges altogether.

And after watching SBM Offshore pay out more than $230 million in penalties in November, that could be an enticing offer.

“A penalty that size, it does act as an actual deterrent,” said Gillies, from the Natural Resource Governance Institute, said. “It’s enough to hurt the company.”

***

James Osborne covers the intersection of energy and politics from the Houston Chronicle’s bureau in Washington D.C. Follow him on Twitter. Send him tips at james.osborne@chron.com.

Press link for more: Houston Chronicle

Unprecedented Coordination Needed to Tackle #ClimateChange #auspol #StopAdani

UN Says Unprecedented Coordination Needed to Tackle Climate and Disaster Risks | UNFCCC

Unprecedented levels of coordination are needed to face the combined challenges of rising global greenhouse gas emissions, weather-related disasters, and achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

This is the key finding of a UN report summing up the views of experts who gathered in Bonn, Germany, to discuss how countries can better adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change.

Examples discussed at the meeting ranged from reducing the need to build sea walls through better coastal management, to tackling threats to economies from climate change by building resilience in the local tourism sector.

The report explains why an integrated approach to climate change adaptation, the 2030 UN SDG agenda and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction is critical to building the resilience of communities that are at the forefront of climate change and natural disaster risks.

Experts agreed that early and integrated action linking these frameworks results in a well-coordinated way that helps utilise limited resources efficiently, protecting the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable communities.

Resilience and ecosystems play a central role in each of the three global agendas, so that adopting approaches based on these themes are crucial for sustainable development.

Good practices showcased in Bonn

A good example in Mexico showcased at the meeting shows how an ecosystem-based approach is helping the coastal wetlands of the Gulf of Mexico – highly vulnerable to climate change – enhance their adaptive capacity and resilience, reduce disaster risk and improve sanitation.

Under a project funded by the Global Environmental Facility, reforestation of mangroves and riparian vegetation has been introduced in these wetlands to protect biodiversity, and a rainwater harvesting system with a purifying water system has been installed to assist people suffering from limited water resources.

Another example from the Caribbean region highlighted how mainstreaming climate change into disaster risk management is building resilience into the local tourism sector. As part of its efforts to respond to climate impacts, the Caribbean Disaster Development Agency is working towards diversifying the tourism sector away from coastal tourism – due to threats to coastal infrastructure from climate change – and is moving towards community-based tourism.

In addition to tackling the threat to coastal infrastructure, this diversification is also aimed at building a safer and cleaner environment, addressing gender issues and community well-being.

Recognising the interconnectedness of climate and disaster related challenges, several other countries are exploring linkages within these three global agendas. Nepal, for example, makes a reference to the SDGs in its national adaptation plans, aiming to tackle the impacts of poverty and climate change simultaneously to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

And another example is Indonesia that is taking the SDGs into account whilst preparing its national climate action plan (“Nationally Determined Contributions” or  “NDCs”).

The report also points to the challenges involved in taking integrated action to respond to climate and disaster risks, including the lack of climate and socio-economic data, inadequate institutional capacity in some countries and absence of financial and technical support.

However, experts agreed that significant progress is being made in overcoming these challenges, including improved coordination among various actors involved in the planning process.

The paper shines a light on the role of the National Adaptation Planning process, which can support the development and implementation of integrated approaches to adaptation, sustainable development and disaster risk reduction.

The United Nations Climate Change (UNFCCC) Adaptation Committee convened policymakers, civil society organizations, scientists, private sector representatives and other stakeholders for the second annual technical expert meeting on adaptation on 16-17 May, 2017. The meeting took place in conjunction with the 46th session of the subsidiary bodies.

This year’s technical expert meeting in May in Bonn will look at adaptation planning for vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems.

Download the paper here.

Are you a climate hawk? #ClimateChange #auspol #qldpol

Being a climate hawk is not easy for anyone.

David RobertsJan 27, 2018, 8:30am EST

Environmentalists and climate hawks are not the same thing

When I first started covering climate change, I kept running into the same problem.

The only term available to describe those concerned about climate change was “environmentalists,” and that just didn’t work.

Not all environmentalists prioritize climate change and not everyone concerned about climate change would self-identify as environmentalist.

Climate change will damage natural systems, yes, but it will also be an economic drain, a cause of migration and conflict, and driver of social inequality.

Anyone who cares about any of that ought to care about climate change — even if they have no particular love for nature and don’t recycle.

There ought to be a word for people who care about climate change that does not commit them to all the cultural and ideological presuppositions of environmentalism.

So way back in 2010, I introduced “climate hawk” (you can read the origin and rationale in this post, or in shorter form in this tweet thread).

“Climate hawk” implies no particular value system, and it certainly implies no position on organic food or camping.

One can be both a climate hawk and an environmentalist (some of my best friends …), but as the story above shows, they do not always jibe.

They are not the same, not only demographically but in terms of real-world political and policy decisions.

Being a committed, consistent climate hawk will occasionally put one at odds with the rhetorical tropes, policy habits, and priorities of environmentalism.

Think solar panels in fragile desert ecosystems.

Wind turbines that kill birds.

Transmission lines that bisect species habitats.

And my personal obsession: urban density and public transit (both crucial to decarbonization).

The wealthy developed world, but especially the US West Coast, is filled with liberals and environmentalists who are perfectly willing to drive a Prius and buy organic veggies, but raise holy hell if anyone tries to build a bike lane, light rail station, or new housing anywhere near them.

It’s one thing to go to the occasional march, but giving up on-street parking?

Let’s be serious.

Being a climate hawk is a challenge to everyone, eventually

Here’s the the thing, though.

Being a climate hawk and an environmentalist at the same time is occasionally challenging, but being a climate hawk and anything else is occasionally challenging.

Anyone who really digs in and follows the logic of climate change, who understands both the risks and the extraordinary mobilization required to avoid them, will eventually find that climate concern bangs up against their other values and priorities.

I have called this climate change’s “totalizing tendency” — the more you absorb it, the more it eclipses everything else.

It is genuinely difficult to wrap your head around the scale of action needed to avoid catastrophic changes in the climate.

It would mean an immediate, sustained global mobilization of a sort that has no precedent in human history.

If something like that mobilization were to happen, it would not be gentle or pretty.

It would not unfold according to the best-laid plans of wonks.

Some people, landscapes, and legitimately worthwhile priorites would suffer in the short- to mid-term.

One example: environmentalists often cite studies showing that high penetrations of renewables are possible in the US. But those studies all show that achieving high penetrations requires a country-spanning network of new transmission lines.

If there’s a study showing how to fully decarbonize without tons of new transmission, I haven’t seen it.

So yes, transmission lines connecting zero-carbon power sources and loads might disrupt some people and ecosystems, but systematically opposing them simply isn’t commensurate with being a climate hawk.

Another example: full decarbonization would require, among other things, an enormous industrial shift.

Tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of jobs in polluting industries would be wiped out and workers displaced.

There would be new jobs in clean energy, but the US has not typically handled such workforce transitions well.

Being a climate hawk means accepting serious social and economic disruption.

Decarbonization will also involve a mind-boggling amount of manufacturing, building, and retrofitting.

Multiple solar and wind gigafactories would be built every year.

Renewables would cover every open surface.

Every city would be as dense and transit-served as possible.

Being a climate hawk means accepting that some natural areas will be turned over to energy production and that “the character of the neighborhood” is going to be disrupted by infill and multi-modal transportation systems.

Conservative climate hawks may have to tolerate climate solutions that involve heavy government intervention.

Farmer climate hawks may have to tolerate swaths of their land being claimed for transmission lines or wind turbines.

Wealthy climate hawks may have to tolerate restrictions on their consumer purchases or airline travel.

Environmentalist climate hawks may have to tolerate large-scale carbon sequestration or new rivers given over to dams. And so on.

That’s what “crisis” means. It’s what “existential” means.

Press link for more: Vox.com