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Posts Tagged ‘Big Oil’

Al Gore did a fabulous job yesterday, of nailing down the three key environmental challenges facing our country.

First, is the interdependence between climate crisis, economy, and national security.

And it just so happens that the climate crisis is intertwined with the other two great challenges facing our nation: reviving our economy and strengthening our national security. The solutions to all three require us to end our dependence on carbon-based fuels.

Second, is the need to use a multi solutions approach, not forgetting to include conservation in the mix -I would love to think that Al read my earlier criticism . . . 🙂

Instead of letting lobbyists and polluters control our destiny, we need to invest in American innovation. Almost a hundred years ago, Thomas Edison said, “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” We already have everything we need to use the sun, the wind, geothermal power, conservation and efficiency to solve the climate crisis—everything, that is, except a president who inspires us to believe, “Yes we can.”

Third, is exposing the hold of the big oil and coal interests on the Republican party, and on the media, and the risk we run if we elect another Republican president.

So how did this no-brainer become a brain-twister? Because the carbon fuels industry—big oil and coal—have a 50-year lease on the Republican Party and they are drilling it for everything it’s worth. And this same industry has spent a half a billion dollars this year alone trying to convince the public they are actually solving the problem, when they are in fact making it worse every single day.

Well said, Al!

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Just read the following in the Washington Post:

Campaign contributions from oil industry executives to Sen. John McCain rose dramatically in the last half of June, after the senator from Arizona made a high-profile split with environmentalists and reversed his opposition to the federal ban on offshore drilling.

Oil and gas industry executives and employees donated $1.1 million to McCain last month — three-quarters of which came after his June 16 speech calling for an end to the ban — compared with $116,000 in March, $283,000 in April and $208,000 in May.

The American public needs to know. Please pass around, comment, blog, do whatever you can to publicize. 

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I have ceased to be so hung up on people changing their behaviors. No, rather, I am aiming for much lower. Attitudes will do. Because I believe most of us cannot go at it alone, and need instead the support and infrastructures from high up. What people can, and should do however, is recognize right initiatives when they are presented to them, and endorse them.

Then comes the challenge of how to change popular attitudes in the face of flagrant manipulations from special fossil fuel interests, as in behind the scenes lobbying, and massive progaganda. In climate matters, Chevron, and Exxon hold the cards, not politicians. The best way to stop this, is through the deliberate exposure of Big Oil‘s dirty tricks in the media, and through counter-lobbying. Climate naives are too easy of a prey.

Another group worth paying attention to, are the powers in charge of our country. That select group of Senators, Congress people, government executives, and Supreme judges need to be educated about their new responsibilities in the face of climate change and other global world resources crisis. Intelligence and power are not immune to misinformation and unconsciousness. Counter-lobbying agents and climate ethicists have their work cut out.

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Roissy Charles de Gaulle. On our way to Tuscany. We were warned, leave for the airport early, today is a Red Alert day for traffic, as Parisians are leaving the city en masse for the beginning of their summer vacations. We ended up instead, three hours early for our flight, with plenty of time to read “Le Monde“, French intellectuals’ favorite newspaper. I learned that ‘Air France is thinking of TGV venture with Veolia‘. Makes perfect sense to me. In the face of skyrocketing fuel costs, the French airline is redefining its business as mass transportation for citizens, not just air transportation. 

How about oil companies reinventing themselves as sustainable energy companies? Not just greenwashing, like Exxon Mobil, or paying lip service to renewable energies as is the case with BP or Shell. No, I mean for them to  take the high road instead,  and reinvest a substantial part of their colossal profits into renewable energies and energy efficiency technologies. Of course, the oil companies lack the short term profit incentives of Air France. The already there carbon economy demands a complete overhaul of big business. That they relinquish short term profit driven strategies, and become instead corporate citizens in the true sense of the word. 

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Everywhere we walk in Paris, we are having to contend with a new public nuisance. Cigarette smoke. I had heard about France’s smoking ban earlier this year. It had seemed like a good thing. People not being able to smoke in public spaces. What I did not realize, is the ban applies to enclosed public spaces, not open air areas such as terraces, or sidewalks. Rather than being discouraged by the new law, Parisians have merely transferred their habit from indoors to the outdoors. And using the cigarette as a new excuse to socialize and make friends in strange places. The main reason is smoking is still considered the social norm in France. 

Compare with California, where smoking is seen as a personal liability, that makes it hard if not impossible for people to find a date or an apartment. Why such a difference? What made people change their behavior? The response lies in the mass media campaigns that took place since 1988, when a state law increased the cigarette tax, and allocated some of that revenue to establish a comprehensive, statewide tobacco education and prevention program, including a significant mass media campaign.  

What does this mean for climate change and other global environment issues? Laws can only go so far. Consumption addicts of all kinds will find ways to circumvent them to satisfy their needs. Better still, are smart, sustained nationwide education and persuasion efforts, of the kind conducted by the anti-tobacco campaigns, that turned smoking into a socially inacceptable practice, and placed the blame on the tobacco industry, not the people. The following are some key learnings from ‘Mass Media Antismoking Campaigns: A Powerful Tool for Health Promotion‘, a paper published in the Annals of Medicine

  • Not all antitobacco advertising is effective. Focus group research has suggested that commercials that expose the tobacco industry’s manipulation of young persons [25] or focus on themes of secondhand smoke and cigarette addiction are the most effective strategies for reducing tobacco use [18]. Campaigns based on the short-term or long-term health effects of smoking are less effective [18]
  • Dorfman and Wallack [11] have explained that the most effective counter-advertisements are those that“challenge the legitimacy and credibility of the industry marketing the product. These are counter-ads, because they represent a clear transfer from the personal to the policy environment and focus on the corporate entity or public policy as a major player in that environment.”
  • Advertisements that directly attack the tobacco industry as the source of the tobacco problem; expose the way in which the industry manipulates, deceives, seduces, and addicts children and adolescents; and highlight the way the industry maintains adult smokers as life-long drug addicts to make profits are effective in challenging the legitimacy and credibility of the industry. Moreover, these themes frame tobacco as a problem because it kills people, not because those younger than 18 years of age use it. The theme of tobacco industry manipulation also demonstrates and reinforces the concept that smoking is a behavior that undermines adolescents’ independence, reduces their control over life decisions, and makes them victims of the industry’s deceit. Rather than mobilizing young persons to rebel against directives not to smoke, campaigns based on these themes empower them to rebel against an industry that is making its profits by deceiving them; seducing them; manipulating them; addicting them; and, ultimately, killing them.
  • The tobacco industry knows that messages aimed solely at changing individual behavior and focused mainly on health-related themes are ineffective in challenging social norms and are therefore unlikely to be effective in reducing tobacco use. When they were unsuccessful at eliminating mass media anti-smoking campaigns, the industry and its supporters instead attempted to control the content of the campaigns, ensuring that the result is a program that will have little ultimate impact.

I can’t help but seeing the parallels between the tobacco industry and Big Oil. It is time to expose the scandals of big oil producers and other special fossil fuel interests getting richer by the seconds at the expense of our overall well being. Time to show the dirty work of the lobbyists working for them. Time to show them as the real perpetrators, and us as the victims of their manipulations. Time to negate the effects of their ad campaigns with even better counter campaigns. Time to portray them as the drug pushers that they are, and to unveil their deliberate strategies to maintain us, the citizens, in a state of unsustainable dependence on oil and non renewable resources. If you have not yet seen the latest double spread ad  from Exxon Mobil ads in the New York Times, it is worth taking a look.

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That show last night was pretty depressing!” Hubby Prad did not sleep well after watching ‘We Were Warned: Out of Gas‘, the latest in CNN’s Special Investigations Unit series. Neither did I. Listening to most of the comments in the show, you would never know we are at the brink of a planetary disaster. Hardly any mention of conservation. No, instead it is all about looking everywhere in search of yet more oil, no matter what the cost. Cost in dollars per barrel. And more importantly, cost to our future in terms of carbon emissions.

Never before has the addiction to oil metaphor been more apt. Big Oil is leaving no soil unturned, no ocean unprobed, to satisfy our need for our daily oil fix.

Now, here’s the part that really, really got to me, best conveyed in trailer for new movie, Pay Dirt:

Just when I thought  coal mountain top removal was as bad as it could get . . . 

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Unless, you live in California, as I do, you may have missed this latest development in the California Apple Moth spraying initiative:

California urban areas will not be sprayed aerially with pesticides to fight the light brown apple moth, state and federal agricultural officials announced Thursday. Instead, officials intend to fight the invading, leaf-munching pest by releasing sterile moths and using other methods, according to California Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura and Cindy Smith, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official in charge of insect control. The change of course comes after thousands of citizens questioned the safety and effectiveness of the spraying program that was promoted by Kawamura and federal officials. The officials had said the pesticides contain a synthetic pheromone – and other ingredients – that would confuse moths and interfere with reproduction.

Needless to say, I am pleased. No pheromone for me and my family. The name itself sounds like it could cause cancer!

More importantly, what happened is a testimony to the power of grassroots organizing. I thought it would be worthwhile to go over all the steps that led to the citizens’ victory:

  • City of Albany’s Integrated Pest Management Task Force, led by Nan Wishner, worked with concerned citizens and environmental groups.
  • To bolster citizens support, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, other members of California delegation and state legislators who introduced bills to restrict use of chemicals, city mayors, and UC Davis entomologists, all wrote letters to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • Based on reports from local MDs, there was evidence from from earlier limited aerial sprayings, that chemicals were responsible for hundreds of respiratory and other health effects. 
  • Internationally known UC Davis entomologists James Carey, Frank Zalom and Bruce Hammock wrote U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer asking that the program be re-evaluated and warning that spraying a pheromone product wouldn’t eliminate the pest. They also said the moth would pose no more of an economic threat to California’s crops than similar pests.
  • A coalition of eight cities – San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, Richmond, Piedmont, Alameda and Albany – as well as 185 nonprofit citizen groups – prepared to send letters to Kawamura, insisting that the department complete an environmental impact report before doing any aerial spraying.
  • Earthjustice attorney Deborah Reames argued that spraying major urban areas with potentially harmful chemicals to eradicate a species could have significant effects on public health and the environment.

Some key lessons here:

  • It helps to work on an issue that moves citizens, in this case personal health.
  • Do your homework, collect enough evidence to support your case, and ask for experts to back up your points
  • Create a non profit organization to champion your cause
  • Co-opt other existing organizations that have a stake in the issue
  • Work up all the echelons along the power ladder, from neighborhood associations, to city council, all the way up to the House and your Governor
  • Get the judicial system involved
  • Befriend your local media; if the story is good it will get picked up in the blogs and the national news

I have written before about the evil role of special fossil fuel interests in blocking some key climate protection initiatives. What happened with the apple moth made me wonder, if the same kind of smart grass roots organizing could apply. The only problem is the impact of Big Oil lobbying is not as direct and personal as being sprayed with some pheromone. . . Still, there must be a way!

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