Bleak Financial Outlook for US Fracking Industry

Drilling rig at twilight

In early 2018 when major financial publications like the Wall Street Journal were predicting a bright and profitable future for the fracking industry, DeSmog began a series detailing the failing business model of fracking shale deposits for oil and gas in America.

Over a year later, the fracking industry is having to reckon with many of the issues DeSmog highlighted, in addition to one new issue — investors are finally giving up on the industry.

Billionaire oil CEO Harold Hamm — who has been touted as a “Shale King” — made comments this week reflecting how weak investment interest is in oil and gas fracking, going so far as to say that it wasn’t worth being a publicly traded company. “In today’s market, we don’t see a lot of value in it,” he said on his company’s earnings call.

A similar sentiment has appeared in The Financial Post, which this week reported how “unloved” by investors the Canadian tar sands industry — which DeSmog also has highlighted as a financial disaster — currently is.

General investors are saying, ‘To heck with energy,’” Jennifer Rowland, an oil and gas analyst for Edward Jones, told The Financial Post.

After years of patience as the fracking and tar sands industries continued to pile up losses, investors are understandably tired of losing money. MORE

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The Green New Deal doesn’t require a tsunami of government funding

What exactly is the Green New Deal?Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

 

With the prices of solar and wind power, as well as batteries, so low, renewable energy should be spreading like wildfire across the United States. But although many states — such as CaliforniaVermontMinnesota and New York — are boldly forging ahead, most are not.

American environmentalists should cast a glance Europe’s way. There’s a quicker way to go renewable than waiting for a tsunami of state spending that may never come.
The Green New Deal pact, proposed in February by Sen. Edward Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and embraced by scores of other US Democrats, is chock full of vibrant ideas and urgent policy considerations. It’s right that with the climate crisis accelerating faster than scientists predicted and our window to curb it narrowing, we have to think big — indeed, to pursue something at least as sweeping in scope as the New Deal recovery program of the 1930s.
Yet the Green New Deal overlooks some of the key lessons from Europe’s renewables revolution, to the detriment of rolling out renewables as fast as possible in the United States.
Critically, the clean energy boom here in Europe was not ignited foremost by government spending, which the Green New Deal implies is critical for the United States to do the same. Rather, legislation initiated by the EU and the national states opened energy markets to independent renewable-energy producers and revamped the regulatory framework to help ordinary citizens, small businesses and communities to get a foot in the door.
This strategic redesign of energy markets set the stage for Europe’s renewables buildout. “Laws matter,” Toby Couture, director of E3 Analytics, an energy consultancy in Germany, told me, “and they can be a huge driver of investment if you get the details right.”
EU members Austria, Sweden, Portugal, Denmark and Latvia, for example, now generate more than half of their electricity from renewables.
Here’s how it happened
In 1998, at the EU’s behest, Europeans began breaking up the monopolies of the giant corporate utilities that had dominated fossil fuel power generation and distribution for decades.
The legislation forced the large utilities to make way for smaller decentralized entrants, foremost those in renewable energy. National governments, pushed by grassroots environmentalists, introduced rules that prioritized the sale of green energy to the grid and created price supports for investors that helped them recover high investment costs. New consumer rights entitled customers to switch their energy providers at any time, without red tape or other hassles.
“The legislation,” Couture explained to me, “enabled ordinary citizens, farmers, church groups and companies to finance their projects through bank loans. The ever-greater sophistication of renewables technology, mostly solar and wind, gave rise to stable cash flows, profitable projects and investors who could repay large loans.” MORE

Fossil Rebellion

In the midst of climate breakdown, governments around the world are funding and protecting the fossil fuel industry

Climate activists from the Extinction Rebellion group demonstrate during protests outside the Bank of England in London last week © Bloomberg

The tragedy of our times is that the gathering collapse of our life support systems coincides with the age of public disservice. Just as we need to rise above self-interest and short termism, governments around the world now represent the meanest and dirtiest of special interests. In the United Kingdom, the US, Brazil, Australia and many other nations, pollutocrats rule.

The Earth’s systems are breaking down at astonishing speed. Wild fires roar across Siberia and Alaska, biting, in many places, deep into peat soils, releasing plumes of carbon dioxide and methane that cause more global heating. In July alone, Arctic wildfires are reckoned to have released as much carbon into the atmosphere as Austria does in a year: already the vicious twister of climate feedbacks has begun to turn. Torrents of meltwater pour from the Greenland ice cap, sweltering under a 15°C temperature anomaly. Daily ice losses on this scale are 50 years ahead of schedule: they were forecast by the climate models for 2070. A paper in Geophysical Research Letters reveals that the thawing of permafrost in the Canadian High Arctic now exceeds the depths of melting projected by scientists for 2090.

While record temperatures in Europe last month caused discomfort and disruption, in Southwest Asia they are already starting to reach the point at which the human body hits its thermal limits. Ever wider tracts of the world will come to rely on air-conditioning not only for basic comfort but also for human survival: another feedback spiral, as air-conditioning requires massive energy use. Those who cannot afford it will either move or die. Already, climate breakdown is driving more people from their homes than either poverty or conflict, while contributing to both these other factors.

recent paper in Nature shows that we have little hope of preventing more than 1.5° of global heating unless we retire existing fossil fuel infrastructure. Even if no new gas or coal power plants, roads and airports are built, the carbon emissions from current installations are likely to push us past this threshold. Only by retiring some of this infrastructure before the end of its natural life could we secure a 50% chance of remaining within the temperature limit agreed in Paris in 2015. Yet, far from decommissioning this Earth-killing machine, almost everywhere governments and industry stoke its fires.

The oil and gas industry intends to spend $4.9 trillion over the next 10 years, exploring and developing new reserves, none of which we can afford to burn. According to the IMF, every year governments subsidise fossil fuels to the tune of $5 trillion: many times more than they spend on addressing our existential predicament. The US spends 10 times more on these mad subsidies than on its federal education budget. Last year, the world burnt more fossil fuels than ever before.

An analysis by Barry Saxifrage in Canada’s National Observer shows that half the fossil fuels ever used by humans have been burnt since 1990. While renewable and nuclear power supplies have also risen in this period, the gap between the production of fossil fuels and low carbon energy has not been narrowing, but steadily widening. What counts, in seeking to prevent runaway global heating, is not the good things we start to do, but the bad things we cease to do. Shutting down fossil infrastructure requires government intervention.

But in many nations, governments intervene not to protect humanity from the existential threat of fossil fuels, but to protect the fossil fuel industry from the existential threat of public protest.

In the US, legislators in 18 states have put forward bills criminalising protests against pipelines, seeking to crush democratic dissent on behalf of the oil industry. In June, Donald Trump’s government proposed federal legislation that would jail people for up to 20 years for disrupting pipeline construction. MORE

 

Philpott concerned about ethics watchdog’s lack of ‘unfettered’ access during SNC-Lavalin probe

Former Liberal MP says the report ‘speaks for itself’ on the prime minister’s actions


Jane Philpott, one of Justin Trudeau’s most trusted ministers, resigned from cabinet as the Liberal government’s crisis over the SNC-Lavalin affair deepened in March. (Turget Yeter/CBC)

Former Liberal MP Jane Philpott, who resigned as cabinet minister role at the height of the SNC-Lavalin affair, says it’s unfortunate the ethics watchdog didn’t have “unfettered access to all information” while writing his condemning report on the prime minister.

On Wednesday, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion released a report that found Prime Minister Justin Trudeau violated the Conflict of Interest Act by trying to influence then justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and get her to overrule a decision to not grant a deferred prosecution agreement to the Quebec-based engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.

“The evidence showed there were many ways in which Mr. Trudeau, either directly or through the actions of those under his direction, sought to influence the attorney general,” Dion said in his report.

However, Dion wrote that without access to all cabinet documents related to the SNC-Lavalin affair, witnesses he interviewed were not able to provide complete evidence, something he said impacted his ability to investigate Trudeau’s role.

He said Ian Shugart, who became clerk of the Privy Council after the SNC-Lavalin hearings had played out, declined his request for access to all cabinet confidence related to the examination of Trudeau’s role in the SNC-Lavalin affair. As the secretary to cabinet, the clerk decides what is a cabinet confidence and what is not.

Dion was critical of his limited access to cabinet confidences.

Jane Philpott  @janephilpott

Attached is my statement in response to the Conflict of Interest & Ethics Commissioner’s Trudeau II Report. I took a stand based on principle because I believe my constituents want me to uphold the highest ethical standard. I welcome the validation the report provides.

View image on Twitter

Justin Trudeau broke ethics law in SNC-Lavalin affair: commissioner


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in Montreal on July 17, 2019. Photo by Josie Desmarais

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held firm to his belief that his actions in the SNC-Lavalin affair were justified, hours after Canada’s ethics watchdog slammed him for violating federal law.

“I can’t apologize for standing up for Canadian jobs,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday afternoon in the southern Ontario town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Trudeau inappropriately pressured former attorney-general Jody Wilson-Raybould to offer the Montreal-based engineering firm the option to avoid criminal prosecution on corruption charges, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion found.

Hours after Dion’s investigation was released, the Prime Minister’s Office put out a related, more favourable review, authored by a former Liberal cabinet member and dated late June.

“The authority of the Prime Minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer,” Dion said in a statement.

Trudeau later told reporters in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where he was previously scheduled to make a different announcement, that he did “fully accept this (Dion’s) report and take responsibility for everything that happened,” but that he also disagreed with some of the commissioner’s conclusions.

The SNC-Lavalin affair rocked Canadian politics earlier this year, a drama that unfolded over several months and involved high-profile resignations, secretly recorded phone calls and explosive committee testimony.

Trudeau, along with senior advisors in his office and elsewhere in government, repeatedly asked Wilson-Raybould late last year and into 2019 about allowing SNC-Lavalin to avoid criminal prosecution.

This was after the public prosecution service had already determined that a so-called deferred prosecution agreement should not be offered to the company.

Dion said Trudeau’s actions were contrary to Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act, which bars government officials responsible for high-level decision-making from influencing the decision of another person to “improperly further another person’s private interests.”

Dion’s report was expected in early September, but released without warning Wednesday. Hours later, the PMO released a separate report by former attorney general Anne McLellan, who was appointed in March to look into whether the roles of justice minister and attorney general should be separated in light of the SNC-Lavalin affair. Trudeau revealed yesterday that the McLellan report would not be released before the ethics commissioner’s.

The commissioner’s report is titled Trudeau II, a reference to the fact that this is the second time Trudeau has been investigated by the office. In December 2017, the office found that Trudeau had violated conflict of interest rules when he and his family vacationed on the Aga Khan’s private island.

“I will be taking all precautions in the future,” Trudeau told media at the time.

The prime minister had already accepted responsibility in March for being blind to an “erosion of trust” between his office and Wilson-Raybould. “I was not aware of that erosion of trust. As prime minister and leader of the federal ministry, I should have been,” he said.

But at that time, as on Wednesday, he did not apologize for the affair, and continued to say there was “no inappropriate pressure” placed on the former justice minister. MORE

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Singh calls Trudeau’s withholding of SNC-Lavalin report ‘troubling’


NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks at the 2019 Climate Caucus Summit in Vancouver, B.C., on Aug. 13, 2019. Photo by Stephanie Wood

Justin Trudeau has decided not to release a report by former Liberal cabinet minister Anne McLellan on the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Instead, the prime minister will wait until the federal ethics commissioner, Mario Dion, releases his report, expected in early September.

New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh called Trudeau’s decision a “cynical” and “troubling” move, in comments at an event in Vancouver on Aug. 13.

Singh told National Observer that Trudeau may be hoping to minimize the negative impact from Dion’s report by releasing McLellan’s at the same time. He also questioned the independence of the report, given that Trudeau’s government commissioned McLellan.

“The ethics commissioner is independent, and that report might be very scathing, and the timing to blunt the scathing report with one that’s paid for by the government is troubling,” he said.

National Observer requested comment from the Prime Minister’s Office but a spokesperson said they had nothing to add.

Trudeau’s withholding of McLellan’s SNC-Lavalin report ‘cynical’ and ‘troubling,’ says Jagmeet Singh.

Earlier on Tuesday, Trudeau revealed that the government had handed the report over to Dion. “We have provided that report to the ethics commissioner to allow the ethics commissioner to finish his own investigation,” he said when asked about the report at an event in Toronto.

“We will be releasing the report at the same time as the ethics commissioner makes his report public.”

The prime minister appointed McLellan in March to look into the SNC-Lavalin affair, and whether the roles of minister of justice and attorney general should be separated.

This issue became central after former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould said she was inappropriately pressured by the PMO to push a deferred prosecution for SNC-Lavalin, a Montreal engineering company facing charges of fraud.

Wilson-Raybould said pressure from the PMO she received as justice minister interfered with her position as attorney general.

In a phone call with former clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, Wilson-Raybould called pressure from the PMO “political interference” that could breach “prosecutorial independence.”

Singh said the scandal shows the Liberals’ priority is “covering themselves, and their wealthy and powerful and connected friends.” MORE

Spectre at the Feast

The livestock industry is trashing the living world, and free-range, pasture-fed meat is the worst offender.

It’s tragic missed opportunity. The new report on land by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shies away from the big issues and fails properly to represent the science. As a result, it gives us few clues about how we might survive the century. Has it been nobbled? Was the fear of taking on the farming industry – alongside the oil and coal companies whose paid shills have attacked it so fiercely – too much to bear? At the moment, I have no idea. But what the panel has produced is pathetic.

The problem is that it concentrates on just one of the two ways of counting the carbon costs of farming. The first way – the IPCC’s approach – could be described as farming’s current account. How much greenhouse gas does driving tractors, spreading fertiliser and raising livestock produce every year? According to the panel’s report, the answer is around 23% of the planet-heating gases we currently produce.

But this fails miserably to capture the overall impact of food production. The second accounting method is more important. This could be described as the capital account: how does farming compare to the natural ecosystems that would otherwise have occupied the land? A paper published in Nature last year, but not mentioned by the IPCC, sought to count this cost. Please read these figures carefully. They could change your life.

It estimates that the total greenhouse gas cost – in terms of lost opportunities for storing carbon – of an average Northern European diet is 9 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person per year. The official carbon footprint of people in the UK is 5.4 tonnes. In other words, if we counted the “carbon opportunity costs” of our diet, our total footprint would almost triple.

Why is this figure so high? Because we eat so much meat and dairy. The Nature paper estimates the carbon cost of a kilo of soya protein at 17kg. The carbon cost of chicken is six times higher, while milk is 15 times higher, and beef 73 times. One kilogram of beef protein has a carbon opportunity cost of 1250kg. That’s roughly equal to one passenger flying from London to New York and back.

These are global average figures, raised by beef production in places like the Amazon basin. But even in the UK, the costs are astonishing. A paper in the journal Food Policy estimates that a kilogramme of beef protein reared on a British hill farm whose soils are rich in carbon has a carbon opportunity cost of 643kg, while a kilo of lamb protein costs 749kg.

Research published in April by the Harvard academics Helen Harwatt and Matthew Hayek, also missed by the IPCC, shows that, alongside millions of hectares of pasture land, an astonishing 55% of cropping land (in other words, land that is ploughed and seeded) in the UK is used to grow feed for livestock, rather than food for humans. If our grazing land was allowed to revert to natural ecosystems, and the land currently used to grow feed for livestock was used to grow grains, beans, fruit, nuts and vegetables for humans, this switch would allow the UK to absorb an astonishing quantity of carbon: equivalent, the paper estimates, to 9 years of our total emissions. And farming in this country could then feed everyone, without the need for imports. A plant-based diet would make the difference between the UK’s current failure to meet its international commitments, and success. MORE

RCMP ‘sitting on’ watchdog report into alleged spying on anti-oil protesters


The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on Friday, April 13, 2018. File photo by The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck

The RCMP has been sitting for two years on a watchdog report into alleged Mountie surveillance of anti-oil protesters, a civil liberties group charges.

In a letter this month to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, a lawyer for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association laments the “inordinate delay” that has effectively obstructed the report’s release.

The association lodged a complaint in February 2014 with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP. It alleged the national police force improperly collected and shared information about people and groups who peacefully opposed the planned Northern Gateway pipeline project and attended National Energy Board meetings.

The association said monitoring, surveillance and information sharing with other government agencies and the private sector created a chilling effect for those who might wish to take part in hearings or other public discussions on petroleum issues.

The commission launched a public interest investigation and completed an interim report into the matter in June 2017, forwarding it to the RCMP for comment on the conclusions and recommendations.

The commission cannot prepare a final report until the RCMP commissioner responds, which also means the findings can’t be disclosed to the civil liberties association or the public.

In March, Paul Champ, a lawyer for the association, wrote commission chairwoman Michelaine Lahaie to express concern that more than five years had passed since the complaint was filed, saying the RCMP may have violated the fundamental freedoms of Canadians exercising their democratic rights.

“It is our view that this interminable delay undermines the credibility of the CRCC and, more importantly, calls into question its ability to fulfil its primary function: ensuring accountability of the RCMP and fostering public trust and confidence in Canada’s national police force,” Champ’s letter said.

“It is regrettable that the CRCC may not be treating this complaint with the seriousness it deserves.”

After receiving no reply, he followed up with another letter in May.

Nika Joncas-Bourget, the commission’s director and general counsel for reviews, told Champ in late May the watchdog shared his frustration with the Mounties.

“We can assure you that we have repeatedly expressed concern to the RCMP regarding the time it is taking to receive the Commissioner’s Response,” she wrote.

Joncas-Bourget said once the commission receives Lucki’s response, it will “promptly issue” its final report, something it usually does within 30 days of getting the top Mountie’s input.

The RCMP had no immediate comment on the reason for the delay or when the commissioner’s response might be coming.

In his Aug. 9 letter to Lucki, Champ noted the RCMP Act imposes a legal duty to provide a response to the commission’s interim report “as soon as feasible.”

“In short, the RCMP has been sitting on this report for over two years and effectively obstructing its release to my client and the public,” he wrote.

“It is our view that two years for your review and response to the CRCC’s interim report is clearly an unreasonable delay not contemplated by the statute, whether the delay is due to insufficient allocation of resources or any other cause.

“This delay is all the more serious when the allegations concern fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the Canadian Constitution.”

The civil liberties association also complained in early 2014 about improper monitoring of anti-pipeline activists by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

The review committee that oversees CSIS dismissed the complaint in 2017, prompting the association to ask the Federal Court to revisit the outcome, a proceeding that is ongoing.

  SOURCE

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Canada Invests in World’s First, Fully Automated Pick-Up Parking System in London

Image result for london west 5London’s West 5 community: safe, walkable, pedestrian-centric design with a vision for 100% energy efficiency.

As Canadians continue to make greener choices, the Government of Canada is delivering more options for them to drive where they need to go while reducing pollution.

Today the government announced an investment of $2.4 million to s2e Technologies to test the world’s first integrated, automated electric vehicle (EV) parking system, offering residents fully automated pick-up and parking within their community.

This investment will demonstrate a new and innovative parking and charging infrastructure for autonomous and electric vehicles and will test capabilities at a smaller scale to see if Canadian communities can support the technology.

This innovative parking tower, situated in London’s West 5 community, will function as an automated valet service for community-shared electric vehicles. The driverless vehicles will be dispatched to a resident’s doorstep when prompted, reducing the need for car ownership within the community. The control system will demonstrate the integration of a number of innovative charging technologies and will address the lack of high-density EV charging in parking-restricted urban environments.

This investment, through Natural Resources Canada’s Green Infrastructure Program, is key to building Canada’s clean growth economy, helping accelerate the deployment and market entry of next-generation clean energy infrastructure, including Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Demonstrations.

s2e Technologies, based in St. Jacobs, Ontario, develops economically and ecologically beneficial clean energy solutions for Canadians and strives to tackle climate change head-on. With operations around the world, its technological advancements in energy solutions aim to build resilient, sustainable communities through specialized energy transformation offerings.

Through Canada’s national energy dialogue, Generation Energy, Canadians made it clear that cleaner transportation options are a necessity for Canada’s low-carbon future. The Government of Canada continues to support green infrastructure projects that will advance Canada’s green future and help us reach our domestic and international climate targets. MORE

 

Building a department store powered by geothermal and solar

La Maison Simons is working to convert their stores across Canada to net-zero

The clothes that we wear have a far-reaching impact on the planet – from the extraction of the raw materials and manufacturing process all the way down to the mounds of textile waste from fast fashion and other discarded clothing. With all of these environmental concerns, it’s easy to overlook the energy requirements of the buildings that house their retail locations.

Seven years ago, Quebec City-based department store La Maison Simons set out to construct a building that generates as much energy on-site annually as it consumes. Teaming up with Oxford Properties, the shopping centre landlord for its Galeries de la Capitale location, the company began mapping out the different technologies required to become the first major net-zero retail store in the country.

The retailer decided to first road-test some of its plans at the Londonderry Simons store in Edmonton, installing a sizeable 636 kilowatt solar array and making numerous energy efficiency upgrades throughout the building. It led to a building that is 30-40% more energy efficient than an average Simons store, and where half the energy is generated on-site through renewables. It also benefited from an Alberta government green incentive program that covered 25% of the cost of the solar panels.

Simons applied many of the lessons learned from the Edmonton project in designing its net-zero Galeries location, which opened in March 2018 in Quebec City. It doubled the amount of solar power covering the parking lot and roof, while drilling 27 geothermal boreholes into the ground under the parking lot for geothermal heating and cooling. A high-tech LED lighting program combined with an energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning system reduced energy consumption by 60% compared to its older location.

Buoyed by positive feedback from customers, the company is now exploring plans for several potential new net-zero retail locations throughout Quebec. MORE