LONDON — During a contentious meeting over proposed climate regulations last fall, a Saudi diplomat to the obscure but powerful International Maritime Organization switched on his microphone to make an angry complaint: One of his colleagues was revealing the proceedings on Twitter as they happened.
It was a breach of the secrecy at the heart of the I.M.O., a clubby United Nations agency on the banks of the Thames that regulates international shipping and is charged with reducing emissions in an industry that burns an oil so thick it might otherwise be turned into asphalt. Shipping produces as much carbon dioxide as all of America’s coal plants combined.
Internal documents, recordings and dozens of interviews reveal what has gone on for years behind closed doors: The organization has repeatedly delayed and watered down climate regulations, even as emissions from commercial shipping continue to rise, a trend that threatens to undermine the goals of the 2016 Paris climate accord.
One reason for the lack of progress is that the I.M.O. is a regulatory body that is run in concert with the industry it regulates. Shipbuilders, oil companies, miners, chemical manufacturers and others with huge financial stakes in commercial shipping are among the delegates appointed by many member nations. They sometimes even speak on behalf of governments, knowing that public records are sparse, and that even when the organization allows journalists into its meetings, it typically prohibits them from quoting people by name.” . . .
David Lindsay Jr.Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Matt Apuzzo and Sarah Hurtes for bringing this mess, this Augean Stables, to our attention. This nonesense should be stopped ASAP. Someone should tell this group at the IMO that all its meeting have to be open to the press, or it should be dismantled. There are some great ideas in the comments, like getting rid of, making illegal, Open Ship Registers. The United States should have its own rules, regulations, and enforcement, perhaps permanently, or at least, until the UN organization shows that it is up to the job, which it clearly isn’t.
PS. One commenter suggested, the US should require all ships coming to the US should meet strict environmental standards, or they can’t stop here and unload or pick up goods. Another said, we should join with the EU, and create rules that anyone trading with either group must abide.
“Since the 1990s, the wisest oil-producing countries and companies have regularly reminded themselves of the oil patch adage that the Stone Age did not end because we ran out of stones; it ended because we invented bronze tools. When we did, stone tools became worthless — even though there were still plenty on the ground.
And so it will be with oil: The petroleum age will end because we invent superior technology that coexists harmoniously with nature. When we do, there will be plenty of oil left in the ground.
So be careful, wise producers tell themselves, don’t bet the vitality of your company, community or country on the assumption that oil will be like Maxwell House Coffee — “Good to the last drop” — and pumped from every last well. Remember Kodak? It underestimated the speed at which digital photography would make film obsolete. It didn’t go well for Kodak or Kodachrome.
Alas, though, not every oil company got the memo.
One that most glaringly did not is the one that in 2013 was the biggest public company in the world! It’s ExxonMobil. Today, it is no longer the biggest. As a result of its head-in-the-oil-sands-drill-baby-drill-we-are-still-not-at-peak-oil business model, Exxon lost over $20 billion last year, suffered a credit rating downgrade, might have to borrow billions just to pay its dividend, has seen its share price over the last decade produce a minus-30 percent return and was booted from the Dow Jones industrial average. . . . “
“As the world’s oil and gas giants face increasing pressure to reduce their fossil fuel emissions, small, privately held drilling companies are becoming the country’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, often by buying up the industry’s high-polluting assets.
According to a startling new analysis of the latest emissions data disclosed to the Environmental Protection Agency, five of the industry’s top ten emitters of methane, a particularly potent planet-warming gas, are little-known oil and gas producers, some backed by obscure investment firms, whose environmental footprints are wildly large relative to their production.
In some cases, the companies are buying up high-polluting assets directly from the largest oil and gas corporations, like ConocoPhillips and BP; in other cases, private equity firms acquire risky oil and gas properties, develop them, and sell them quickly for maximum profits.
The largest emitter, Hilcorp Energy, reported almost 50 percent more methane emissions from its operations than the nation’s largest fossil fuel producer, Exxon Mobil, despite pumping far less oil and gas. Four other relatively unknown companies — Terra Energy Partners, Flywheel Energy, Blackbeard Operating and Scout Energy — each reported emitting more of the gas than many industry heavyweights. . . .”
David Lindsay Jr. Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Thank you Hiroko Tabuchi for this excellent reporting, and for disturbing my morning. This scandal calls for stiffer laws, regulations and penalities, and a warp speed movement by the government to seal all these leaks, and then go after the parties responsible for them for reimbursement, fines, and probably, prison terms. The treats of climate change are existential, and we have to get serious about it. One new law that might make sense, would be to forbid the selling of any oil or gas assets until all of its current leaks are fixed and fully sealed, which would prevent the larger companies from just off loading their dirty sites.
The fines and penalties should be so severe, that these oil and gas opportunists should be hopping to clean up their messes before the government does.
“HOUSTON — Big Oil was dealt a stunning defeat on Wednesday when shareholders of Exxon Mobil elected at least two board candidates nominated by activist investors who pledged to steer the company toward cleaner energy and away from oil and gas.
The success of the campaign, led by a tiny hedge fund against the nation’s largest oil company, could force the energy industry to confront climate change and embolden Wall Street investment firms that are prioritizing the issue. Analysts could not recall another time that Exxon management had lost a vote against company-picked directors.
“This is a landmark moment for Exxon and for the industry,” said Andrew Logan, a senior director at Ceres, a nonprofit investor network that pushes corporations to take climate change seriously. “How the industry chooses to respond to this clear signal will determine which companies thrive through the coming transition and which wither.”
The vote reveals the growing power of giant Wall Street firms that manage the 401(k)s and other investments of individuals and businesses to press C.E.O.s to pursue environmental and social goals. Some of these firms are run by executives who say they see climate change as a major threat to the economy and the planet. . . . . “
I have opposed divestment from the oil and gas companies for many years, arguing that persuation from within is as important as legislation and pressure from without. It appears that yesterday, folks like me had a good day. I was extremely proud to have voted my small batch of Exxon Mobil shares for all four of the new sustainability board members, and for the the two biting resolutions that passed, requiring transparecy of all money to politics, and to evaluate such donations against the goals of the Paris Climate Accord goals.
How Does the U.S. Approach to the Environment Look From Abroad?Video by Chai Dingari, Adam Westbrook and Brendan Miller
“The United States has a schizophrenic relationship with the environment.
It boasts a spectacular system of more than 400 national park sites; a robust environmental lobby; and strong federal environmental law, including the landmark Endangered Species Act, which is credited with saving the bald eagle and the grizzly bear from extinction.
Yet it also harbors a dark side, including an insatiable appetite for fossil fuels; a longstanding romance with behemoth, gas-guzzling vehicles; and perhaps the highest per capita generation of plastic waste in the world.
For the video (below), we collated data and other information about America’s posture on the environment and presented them to people from other countries that, in some ways, have made the United States, the wealthiest country in the world, seem like an environmental laggard.”
Opinion | ‘Climate Change Is Not a Subjective Thing.’ How Does the U.S. Approach to the Environment Look From Abroad
“WASHINGTON—As the coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices walloped U.S. frackers this spring, Texas billionaires Dan and Farris Wilks got a $35 million relief loan to help one of their fracking companies stay afloat. At the same time, they were on a buying spree in the country’s oil patch.
Since spring, businesses controlled by the Wilks brothers have hunted for deals among fracking firms going through bankruptcy and taken or increased stakes in at least six other companies, corporate filings show. But when it looked like the oil-and-gas industry would be shut out of a key pandemic lending program, they and others in the industry turned their attention to Washington, making an appeal for help in meetings with home-state senator Ted Cruz.
The twin dynamics of acquisitions and government rescue show how the economic tumult caused by the pandemic has reshaped the landscape for a key U.S. industry. One result: The Wilkses have expanded their presence in a still-youthful industry where they first invested in 2002, soon to become billionaires as fracking flourished.
But the industry was already under pressure from international competition and a sagging oil price by the time the pandemic hit, and its mounting woes prompted the Wilkses and others to turn to allies in Washington, including Mr. Cruz. The Republican senator helped convince the Trump administration and the Federal Reserve to change the rules for pandemic loans to ensure oil and gas firms could participate.
Soon after the U.S. government changed the rules of its lending program in April, a Wilks family company, ProFrac Holdings LLC, applied for and received a $35 million loan, federal records show. ProFrac, a supplier of pumping equipment and services, is just one slice of the sprawling portfolio of fracking businesses that the Wilks family owns in part or outright across the American West and Canada.
Ms. Erdrich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, is a novelist and poet based in Minnesota. Her most recent book is “The Night Watchman.”
A young Line 3 protester in Palisade, Minn., near a construction site this month.Credit…Alex Kormann/Star Tribune, via Associated Press
“PALISADE, Minn. — My daughter and I are walking along the fast-flowing stream of pure darkness that is the young Mississippi River. We are two hours north of Minneapolis, in Palisade, Minn., where people are gathering to oppose the Line 3 pipeline. Patches of snow crunch on pads of russet leaves as we near the zhaabondawaan, a sacred lodge along the river’s banks. It is here that Enbridge is due to horizontally drill a new pipeline crossing beneath the river. We enter the lodge. The peace, the sweetness, the clarity of the water is hard to bear. The brush and trees hardly muffle the roar of earth-moving and tree-felling equipment across the road. The pipeline is almost at the river.
Last month, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s administration signed off on final water permits for Enbridge to complete an expansion of its Line 3 pipeline. After the final section is built in Minnesota, the pipeline will pump oil sands and other forms of crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta, to Superior, Wis., cutting through Indigenous treaty lands along the way. Lawsuits — including one by the White Earth and Red Lake nations and several environmental organizations, and another by the Mille Lacs Nation — are pending. But construction has already started.
This has been a brutal year for Indigenous people, who have suffered nearly double the Covid-19 mortality rate of white Americans. We have lost many of our elders, our language keepers. Covid has also struck an inordinate number of our vibrant young. Nevertheless, tribal people worked hard on the elections. The Native vote became a force that helped carry several key areas of the country and our state. On the heels of those victories, the granting of final permits to construct Enbridge’s Line 3, which will cross Anishinaabe treaty lands, was a breathtaking betrayal. The Land of 10,000 Lakes is already suffering from climate change. Yet Minnesota’s pollution control and public utility agencies refused to take the future of our lakes into account, or to consider treaty rights, in granting permits.
This is not just another pipeline. It is a tar sands climate bomb; if completed, it will facilitate the production of crude oil for decades to come. Tar sands are among the most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet. The state’s environmental impact assessment of the project found the pipeline’s carbon output could be 193 million tons per year. That’s the equivalent of 50 coal-fired power plants or 38 million vehicles on our roads, according to Jim Doyle, a physicist at Macalester College who helped write a report from the climate action organization MN350 about the pipeline. He observed that the pipeline’s greenhouse gas emissions are greater than the yearly output of the entire state. If the pipeline is built, Minnesotans could turn off everything in the state, stop traveling and still not come close to meeting the state’s emission reduction goals. The impact assessment also states that the potential social cost of this pipeline is $287 billion over 30 years.
“Oil and gas production may be responsible for a far larger share of the soaring levels of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, in the earth’s atmosphere than previously thought, new research has found.
The findings, published in the journal Nature, add urgency of efforts to rein in methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry, which routinely leaks or intentionally releases the gas into air.
“We’ve identified a gigantic discrepancy that shows the industry needs to, at the very least, improve their monitoring,” said Benjamin Hmiel, a researcher at the University of Rochester and the study’s lead author. “If these emissions are truly coming from oil, gas extraction, production use, the industry isn’t even reporting or seeing that right now.”
Atmospheric concentrations of methane have more than doubled from preindustrial times. A New York Times investigation into “super emitter” sites last year revealed vast quantities of methane being released from oil wells and other energy facilities instead of being captured.”
“In the spring of 2017, a European Union working group of environmentalists, academics and lobbyists was having a technical discussion on green farming practices when a map appeared on an overhead screen. In an instant, the room froze.
A farm lobbyist objected. Officials murmured their disapproval.
The map juxtaposed pollution in northern Italy with the European Union subsidies paid to farmers in the region. The overlap was undeniable and invited a fundamental question: Is the European Union financing the very environmental problems it is trying to solve?
The map was expunged from the group’s final reports, those in attendance say. But using the European Union’s own economic models, The New York Times created an approximation that confirms what European officials did not want seen: The most heavily subsidized areas had the worst pollution.”
Overlapping E.U. subsidies with Italy’s nitrate pollution
E.U. farm subsidies Nitrate pollution
More subsidies Higher pollution
“HILLION, FRANCE — Pierre Philippe’s fight began when people and animals started dying on the beaches of northwestern France.
A man’s body was pulled from a pile of green slime. A rider was discovered unconscious beside his dead horse. A beach worker slipped into a coma, and a jogger fatally collapsed.
The reason seemed obvious to Dr. Philippe, an emergency room doctor. Every summer, algae coats the Brittany beaches with bright green slime. As it decomposes, it gives off hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas that can kill in seconds.
Dr. Philippe tried for years to persuade government health officials to acknowledge the threat, or even discuss it. They refused. “If they recognize the problem, they also indirectly admit responsibility,” he said. “And they know that.”
That’s because talking about the algae meant talking about farming.”
Jonah M. Kessel, a New York Times visual journalist, and Hiroko Tabuchi, a Times climate reporter, went to West Texas oilfields with a camera that can photograph methane.
“To the naked eye, there is nothing out of the ordinary at the DCP Pegasus gas processing plant in West Texas, one of the thousands of installations in the vast Permian Basin that have transformed America into the largest oil and gas producer in the world.
But a highly specialized camera sees what the human eye cannot: a major release of methane, the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas that is helping to warm the planet at an alarming rate.
Two New York Times journalists detected this from a tiny plane, crammed with scientific equipment, circling above the oil and gas sites that dot the Permian, an oil field bigger than Kansas. In just a few hours, the plane’s instruments identified six sites with unusually high methane emissions.”