Texas Fracking Billionaires Drew Covid-19 Aid While Investing in Rivals – WSJ

“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.

Source: Texas Fracking Billionaires Drew Covid-19 Aid While Investing in Rivals – WSJ

Opinion | Not Just Another Pipeline – By Louise Erdrich – The New York Times

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.”

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.

Opinion | New York State’s Divestment Threat Is a Victory for Climate Activists – By Bill McKibben – The New York Times

Mr. McKibben is a founder of the climate advocacy group 350.org and a leader of fossil fuel divestment efforts.

Credit…Brandon Thibodeaux for The New York Times

“New York State’s comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli, announced on Wednesday that the state would begin divesting its $226 billion employee pension fund from gas and oil companies if they can’t come up with a legitimate business plan within four years that is aligned with the goals of the Paris climate accord. Those investments have historically added up to roughly $12 billion.

The entire portfolio will be decarbonized over the next two decades. “Achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040 will put the fund in a strong position for the future mapped out in the Paris Agreement,” he said in a statement.” . . .

Thank you Bill McKibbon.

Here is denier comment, followed by my response to it:

Jonathan Katz
St. Louis56m ago

It may be a victory for climate activists, but it’s a defeat for humanity. Fossil fuels are the reason we aren’t living like medieval peasants in cold smoky (burning biofuels) huts. Climate change is real, and anthropogenic, but it isn’t hurting us. Net, it is probably beneficial, extending growing seasons, making it easier and cheaper to keep warm in the winter, enriching the atmosphere with CO_2 that plants need, and increasing rainfall in arid regions. I am a professor of Physics, and understand much more about greenhouse gases than Mr. McKibben. I am interested in the welfare of humanity, not in McKibben’s mystical pre-industrial Eden.

3 Replies7 Recommend

 
David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | Pending Approval
@Jonathan Katz You start off so well, I didn’t expect you to argue that we are not being hurt. Have you spoken to anyone from the Gilbert Islands in the South Pacific. One Virginia think tank that does work for the Pentagon reported in the last year or two, that Iran will probably run out of water in the next 50 years. About 3 years ago, Johannesburg, South Africa almost ran out of water completely. The UN High Commission on Refugees estimates that we have 30 million climate change refugees now, and several hundred million in a a the next 30 years. (We do need to refresh or check these numbers, but they are staggering.) God bless you Sir, but beware of Dante’s inferno. 7.7 billion people now on the planet, Scientists are saying we are the meteor causing the 6th extinction of species, going on now.
David Lindsay Jr. is the author of “The Tay Son Rebellion” and blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Opinion | Trump Lost. Bolsonaro Can’t Get Over It. – By Vanessa Barbara – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is clearly not ready to mourn the departure of his American counterpart.
Credit…Adriano Machado/Reuters

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — My country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has still not recognized Joe Biden as the winner of America’s presidential election.

In his silence, he stands alongside other world leaders such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Prime Minister Janez Jansa of Slovenia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. “I’m holding back a little more,” Mr. Bolsonaro said recently, adding that there was “a lot of fraud” in the election.

It’s an understandable response, as he seems to have a problem accepting facts. Just think about it: This is a guy who still claims hydroxychloroquine is the cure for Covid-19. He maintains that the pandemic is overblown. He asserts that his government has simply eradicated corruption and that Brazil never had a military dictatorship. He says that the Amazon is not burning at all.

But there’s more to the refusal than Mr. Bolsonaro’s now commonplace bizarreness. As one of President Trump’s fiercest allies on the global stage, Mr. Bolsonaro is clearly not ready to mourn the departure of his fellow leader. He’s in denial.

Opinion | Why the 2020 Election Makes It Hard to Be Optimistic About the Future – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“The 2020 election is over. And the big winners were the coronavirus and, quite possibly, catastrophic climate change.

OK, democracy also won, at least for now. By defeating Donald Trump, Joe Biden pulled us back from the brink of authoritarian rule.

But Trump paid less of a penalty than expected for his deadly failure to deal with Covid-19, and few down-ballot Republicans seem to have paid any penalty at all. As a headline in The Washington Post put it, “With pandemic raging, Republicans say election results validate their approach.”

And their approach, in case you missed it, has been denial and a refusal to take even the most basic, low-cost precautions — like requiring that people wear masks in public.

The epidemiological consequences of this cynical irresponsibility will be ghastly. I’m not sure how many people realize just how terrible this winter is going to be.

Deaths from Covid-19 tend to run around three weeks behind new cases; given the exponential growth in cases since the early fall, which hasn’t slowed at all, this means that we may be looking at a daily death toll in the thousands by the end of the year. And remember, many of those who survive Covid-19 nonetheless suffer permanent health damage.

To be fair, the vaccine news has been very good, and it looks likely that we’ll finally bring the pandemic under control sometime next year. But we could suffer hundreds of thousands of American deaths, many of them avoidable, before the vaccine is widely distributed.

Awful as the pandemic outlook is, however, what worries me more is what our failed response says about prospects for dealing with a much bigger issue, one that poses an existential threat to civilization: climate change.

As many people have noted, climate change is an inherently difficult problem to tackle — not economically, but politically.

Right-wingers always claim that taking climate seriously would doom the economy, but the truth is that at this point the economics of climate action look remarkably benign. Spectacular progress in renewable energy technology makes it fairly easy to see how the economy can wean itself from fossil fuels. A recent analysis by the International Monetary Fund suggests that a “green infrastructure push” would, if anything, lead to faster economic growth over the next few decades.

But climate action remains very difficult politically given (a) the power of special interests and (b) the indirect link between costs and benefits.

Consider, for example, the problem posed by methane leaks from fracking wells. Better enforcement to limit these leaks would have huge benefits — but the benefits would be widely distributed across time and space. How do you get people in Texas to accept even a small rise in costs now when the payoff includes, say, a reduced probability of destructive storms a decade from now and half the world away?

This indirectness made many of us pessimistic about the prospects for climate action. But Covid-19 suggests that we weren’t pessimistic enough.

Continue reading

As Election Nears, Trump Makes a Final Push Against Climate Science – By Christopher Flavelle and Lisa Friedman – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has recently removed the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the nation’s premier scientific agency, installed new political staff who have questioned accepted facts about climate change and imposed stricter controls on communications at the agency.

The moves threaten to stifle a major source of objective United States government information about climate change that underpins federal rules on greenhouse gas emissions and offer an indication of the direction the agency will take if President Trump wins re-election.

An early sign of the shift came last month, when Erik Noble, a former White House policy adviser who had just been appointed NOAA’s chief of staff, removed Craig McLean, the agency’s acting chief scientist.

Mr. McLean had sent some of the new political appointees a message that asked them to acknowledge the agency’s scientific integrity policy, which prohibits manipulating research or presenting ideologically driven findings.”

Opinion | Trump Tells Coronavirus, ‘I Surrender’ – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

“As we head into the final stretch of the election, Covid-19 is on a roll.

Coronavirus cases keep hitting records — among other things, five aides to Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive. Hospitalizations, which lag behind cases, are soaring. And deaths, which lag even further behind, are starting to rise, too. Put it this way: Just between now and Election Day, we’re likely to lose almost twice as many Americans to Covid-19 as died on 9/11.

So how is the Trump administration responding? Actually doing anything about the pandemic is apparently off the table. What we’re getting instead is a multilevel public relations strategy: We’re doing a great job. Anyway, there’s nothing anyone can do. And besides, doctors are faking the numbers so they can make more money.

These are, of course, inconsistent stories, and the smearing of health care workers who put their lives on the line to save others is just vile. But none of this should surprise us.

This is, after all, Donald Trump. Also, we’ve seen this combination of denial, declared helplessness and conspiracy theorizing before: Trump and company are following the same strategy on Covid-19 that the right has long followed on climate change.

By now, almost everyone is familiar with the way Trump keeps moving the goal posts to claim success no matter how bad things get. Back in February he predicted zero cases “within a couple of days.” In the spring he said that it would go away when the weather got warmer. Lately he’s been claiming triumph because the coronavirus hasn’t killed 2.2 million people.

The administration was slower to admit that it was abjectly surrendering to Covid-19. But back in August Dr. Scott Atlas, a believer in “herd immunity” — basically letting the virus rip through most of the community — joined the White House coronavirus task force.

Atlas is a radiologist with no known expertise in infectious disease, and actual epidemiologists like Dr. Anthony Fauci are horrified by his ideas. But Atlas, not Fauci, appears to be calling the shots these days.

And on Sunday Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, made it more or less official, saying that “we are not going to control the pandemic” because it is a “contagious virus.”

Image: Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

This came after a rally in which Trump — who considers himself a victim because the media keep talking about “Covid, Covid, Covid” — claimed that coronavirus fatalities are being exaggerated because “doctors get more money and hospitals get more money” if they say that Covid-19 was the cause of death.

All of these excuses sound very familiar to anyone who has followed the climate debate over the years. According to the right, climate change isn’t happening; anyway, there’s nothing we can do about it without destroying the economy; and it’s all a hoax concocted by a global conspiracy of scientists, who are just in it for the money.

That last bit is, of course, projection. No, the overwhelming scientific consensus that we’re experiencing man-made global warming isn’t being driven by financial incentives — but those who reject that consensus are.

At this point, climate denial is largely sustained by a network of right-wing think tanks supported by fossil-fuel interests; that is, the “experts” claiming either that global warming isn’t happening or that nothing can be done about it are basically professional deniers, who make a living as “merchants of doubt.”

And Covid denial, it turns out, isn’t just a similar phenomenon; it’s being conducted by pretty much the same people.

Atlas and other administration officials have reportedly been strongly influenced by the Great Barrington Declaration, a manifesto on behalf of herd immunity that grew out of a meeting at the American Institute for Economic Research. What do we know about this institute?

Well, it is, not surprisingly, linked to the Charles Koch Institute. And a perusal of its website reveals that until recently it devoted much of its time to climate denial, putting out articles with titles like “Brazilians Should Keep Slashing Their Rainforest.”

More recently, however, the institute’s focus has shifted to Covid denial. Last month, for example, it published an article lauding Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, whose refusal to take action against the coronavirus has turned her state into what the article called “a fortress of liberty and hope protected from the grasps of overbearing politicians.”

Since then, of course, South Dakota has experienced an explosion of infections and soaring hospitalizations, and is now seeing a rapid rise in Covid-19 deaths.

Was there ever a chance that Trump would take the pandemic seriously? Probably not. After all, he has always been a die-hard, conspiracy-theorizing denier of climate change, and his coronavirus response has come straight out of the climate-denier playbook.

In any case, we can predict with high accuracy what he will do if the polls are wrong, and he wins a second term. He will do nothing at all to fight the pandemic; he will, however, try to suppress the truth about what’s happening. And many, many more Americans will die.”

In Visiting a Charred California, Trump Confronts a Scientific Reality He Denies – By Michael D. Shear and Coral Davenport – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — When President Trump flies to California on Monday to assess the state’s raging forest fires, he will come face to face with the grim consequences of a reality he has stubbornly refused to accept: the devastating effects of a warming planet.

To the global scientific community, the acres of scorched earth and ash-filled skies across the American West are the tragic, but predictable, result of accelerating climate change. Nearly two years ago, federal government scientists concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels could triple the frequency of severe fires across the Western states.

But the president has used his time in the nation’s highest office to aggressively promote the burning of fossil fuels, chiefly by rolling back or weakening every major federal policy intended to combat dangerous emissions. At the same time, Mr. Trump and his senior environmental officials have regularly mocked, denied or minimized the established science of human-caused climate change.

Now, as he battles for a second term in the White House, Mr. Trump has doubled down on his anti-climate agenda as a way of appealing to his core supporters. At a rally in Pennsylvania last month, he blamed California’s failure to “clean your floors” of leaves, threatening to “make them pay for it because they don’t listen to us.

The lethal fires spreading across the West — like the coronavirus that has ravaged the country for months — are a warning for the president that many voters may hold him and his administration accountable for brushing aside scientific experts and failing to effectively mobilize the government to minimize natural disasters that have claimed lives, damaged property and threatened economic prosperity.

“Talk to a firefighter if you think that climate change isn’t real,” Mayor Eric M. Garcetti of Los Angeles, a supporter of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “It seems like this administration are the last vestiges of the Flat Earth Society of this generation.”

Mr. Trump’s climate record is far more aggressive than the laissez-faire environmental policy promoted for years by business interests in his party. Indeed, as he has sought to zealously roll back regulations, even some of the world’s largest oil companies and automakers have opposed the moves, saying that they will lead to years of legal uncertainty that could actually harm their bottom lines.

“As an historic figure, he is one of the most culpable men in America contributing to the suffering and death that is now occurring through climate-related tragedy,” Jerry Brown, the former California governor who made climate change his signature issue, said in an interview on Sunday, though he was careful not to blame Mr. Trump specifically for the fires ravaging his state.

The president’s record is also more consequential, experts say, because the amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere has now passed the point at which scientists say it would be possible to avert many of the worst effects of global warming — even if tough emissions policies are later enacted.

Mr. Biden’s presidential campaign is hoping to use Mr. Trump’s climate positions as a cudgel against him with independents and moderate Republicans. Christine Todd Whitman, the Republican former governor of New Jersey, is backing Mr. Biden’s candidacy in large part because of the president’s environmental policies.

“It’s mind-boggling, the ignorance that he displays on this subject,” Ms. Whitman said in an interview on Sunday. “He doesn’t understand climate change. He doesn’t particularly believe in science. It’s all about him and his re-election.”

“He doesn’t govern for all Americans,” she said.

On Saturday, Mr. Trump abruptly added the trip to McClellan Park, Calif., near Sacramento, to be briefed on the fires to an already scheduled West Coast fund-raising and campaign swing. He had come under intense criticism for weeks of silence on the increasingly deadly blazes that are consuming parts of California, Oregon and Washington — three Democratic-led states that he has feuded with for years.

. . .   But the president has often treated climate change and the environment as a deeply partisan issue, not unlike his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the recent racial upheaval in some cities, in which he has frequently lashed out at Democratic officials while praising the actions of Republicans.

Trump ended a ban on offshore oil drilling supported by the Republican governor in a key election-year state, even though he has refused to do the same for Democratic-led states in the Northeast.

At the event in front of supporters in Jupiter, Fla., Mr. Trump declared himself “a great environmentalist.”

In fact, Mr. Trump has repeatedly mocked the science of climate change since long before he ran for president. In 2012, he tweeted: “In the 1920’s people were worried about global cooling — it never happened. Now it’s global warming. Give me a break!” He also tweeted that the concept of climate change “was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

The president has continued to take a dim view of climate science throughout his tenure, even as the government he oversees has reinforced the accepted threats to the future of the planet.

. . .   In 2017 and 2018, the federal government published a sweeping, two-volume scientific report, the National Climate Assessment, that represents the most authoritative and comprehensive conclusions to date about the causes and effects of climate change in the United States.

The report is clear about the causes — burning fossil fuels — and the effects: It found that the increased drought, flooding, storms and worsening wildfires caused by the warming planet could shrink the American economy by up to 10 percent by the end of the century.

Two days before the White House published the 2018 volume of that report, Mr. Trump mockingly tweeted, “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS — Whatever happened to Global Warming?”

In an interview a month before, he said of global warming, “I don’t know that it’s man-made,” and suggested that even as the planet warmed, “it will change back again” — an idea scientists have long debunked.

Fossil Fuels Are to Blame for Soaring Methane Levels, Study Shows – By Hiroko Tabuchi – The New York Times

“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.”

Opinion | Greta Versus the Greedy Grifters – By Paul Krugman – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Markus Schreiber/Associated Press

“I’ve never been a fan of Davos, that annual gathering of the rich and fatuous. One virtue of the pageant of preening and self-importance, however, is that it brings out the worst in some people, leading them to say things that reveal their vileness for all to see.

And so it was for Steven Mnuchin, Donald Trump’s Treasury secretary. First, Mnuchin doubled down on his claim that the 2017 tax cut will pay for itself — just days after his own department confirmed that the budget deficit in 2019 was more than $1 trillion, 75 percent higher than it was in 2016.

Then he sneered at Greta Thunberg, the young climate activist, suggesting that she go study economics before calling for an end to investment in fossil fuels.

Well, unearned arrogance is a Trump administration hallmark — witness Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, claiming that a respected national security reporter couldn’t find Ukraine on a map. So it may not surprise you to learn that Mnuchin was talking nonsense and that Thunberg almost certainly has it right.

One can only surmise that Mnuchin slept through his undergraduate economics classes. Otherwise he would know that every, and I mean every, major Econ 101 textbook argues for government regulation or taxation of activities that pollute the environment, because otherwise neither producers nor consumers have an incentive to take the damage inflicted by this pollution into account.”

David Lindsay: Thank you Paul Krugman.  Here are two of the most popular comments which I endorsed:

Matt

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez points out that if you don’t have an economics degree, like Greta, they’ll mock you for not having one. If you do have one, like AOC, they’ll claim it’s illegitimate. They will happily deny logic, science, and environmental consensus in order to protect oligarchy. Not surprisingly, economics fares no better.

4 Replies735 Recommended

 
Socrates commented January 27

Socrates
Downtown Verona. NJ

The human depravity required to be a right-wing science and manmade global warming denier is astounding. The only reasons to indulge in such a stance are a sadomasochistic death wish for oneself, humanity, and the entire animal and plant kingdom…and psychopathic greed.

Or as Greta Thunberg said so eloquently at the UN Climate Action Summit:

“People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

“For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.”

“How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions?” “There will not be any (realistic) solutions or plans presented…here today, because these (C02) numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

“You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.” “We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.”

“Thank you.”

— Just say NO to the Gas Oil Petroleum party.

5 Replies663 Recommended