4-22-08 by dugan
When I look at oil company profit reports–which will soon reveal truly rabid profit increases in the 1st quarter of 2008–I just ignore the line on "alternative energy" spending. That’s because it is often the opposite of renewable energy. Mother Jones magazine’s latest issue has the perfect description of why:
"Across the board, the companies that control fossil fuels have begun
to respond to rising concern about global warming with what amounts to
a three-point strategy: First, make small overtures toward developing
renewable energy, and milk them for maximum PR value. Second, invest
more generously in carbon-based "alternative energy" that gets passed
off as green. Third, invoke the goal of energy independence to pump,
mine, transport, and sell more and more of the same old fuels to an
"One of the slipperiest tactics involves redefining what constitutes
clean energy. In a 2006 report, the oil-industry-friendly Institute for
Energy Research said that U.S. oil and gas companies had invested $98
billion in "emerging energy technologies" in North America from 2000 to
2005. But the vast majority of this funding went to develop "frontier
hydrocarbons"—new, often filthy methods of producing more oil and gas.
In fact, a report from the Center for American Progress found that
between 2001 and 2007, a period of unprecedented profits, the top five
private oil companies spent an average of just one-half of one percent
of total profits on renewable fuels. (BP and Shell topped the list at
1.2 percent; ExxonMobil occupied the bottom at 0."
The piece is largely about why the coal industry’s new greenwashing project, "carbon sequestration" (injecting coal’s CO2 emissions back into the ground) is both largely mythical and, if achieved, may be deadly dangerous. To wit:
"In addition to being difficult and expensive, [carbon sequestration] is potentially dangerous: In 1986, an eruption of CO2
from a naturally occurring pocket under a Cameroon lake bed instantly
suffocated nearly 1,800 people; leaks from an underground storage site
could be likewise deadly. "That stuff is crazy," says Tyson Slocum, who
heads Public Citizen’s energy project. "Totally unproven. Stuffing
hundreds of millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the ground—there
are huge liabilities."
"For this reason, Slocum says, energy companies are pushing to
transfer as much legal and financial responsibility as possible to the
federal government. Last April industry lawyer Kipp Coddington of
Alston & Bird testified before a Senate committee that if the
industry was going to invest billions of dollars in carbon
sequestration, the related risks had to be "identified, quantified, and
minimized." As Slocum puts it, "Once underground, [the CO2] becomes the responsibility of the American people."
That’s like government handing doctors and hospitals a free pass to commit malpractice. Oops, I forgot–that’s what legislation curbing medical lawsuits already amounts to.