Pages tagged "fossilfuels"

Divestment Movement Escalates

This week, the national fossil fuel divestment movement escalated, as student blockades popped up at Harvard and Washington University in St. Louis. By the end of the week, 8 students had been arrested across the two campuses, the first arrests since the fossil fuel divestment campaign launched nearly two years ago.

Harvard 1The skirmish at Harvard touched off Wednesday, where students organized as Divest Harvard have been pushing the university to get rid of  the oil, gas, and coal holdings in its $33 billion endowment. Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, has dug in against Divest Harvard’s demands, even denying that the fossil fuel industry is blocking meaningful action to address climate change.  Facing an administration that refuses to distance itself from the fossil fuel corporations driving climate crisis, Divest Harvard launched a blockade of President Faust’s office that lasted more than 24 hours. On Thursday morning, Harvard University police arrested undergraduate Brett Roche -- the first arrest in the national divestment movement. Roche’s arrest marks an increasingly hardline response from Harvard’s administrators, as the university demonstrates a willingness to use police force to defend investment in fossil fuel corporations.

Brett Roche may have been the first divestment activist arrested on campus this week, but he certainly wasn’t the last. This morning, Washington University in St. Louis joined Harvard in infamy: seven students were arrested as they attempted to deliver a letter to the university’s board of trustees. Just days before, WashU Students Against Peabody ended a historic 17-day sit-in which demanded that Greg Boyce, notorious CEO of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, be removed from the university’s board. During negotiations, Washington University chancellor Mark Wrighton flatly refused to respond to students demands. When asked to exercise leadership, he replied “I can, but I won’t.” Faced with an administration content to cozy up to fossil fuel interests, more than 100 students staged a peaceful sat-in outside Washington University’s board meeting under the watchful eyes of police, some of whom carried shields and riot gear. When a delegation of students attempted to enter the building to deliver a letter to Washington University’s board, they were arrested. All seven were charged with trespassing on their own campus.

wustlThe implications of this week of action are both scary and heartening. Novelist Margaret Atwood spoke to the scary, criticizing the administration's response as she received an award at Harvard yesterday: “Any society where arrest is preferable to open dialogue is a scary place.” Indeed, university administrators at both Harvard and Washington University appear to be so committed to the fossil fuel industry that they'll arrest their own students for speaking out.

On the hopeful side, the student divestment movement is finding its power. After two years of power-building and by-the-book advocacy, campus climate activists are proving that they have the courage to stand up to their administrators and the fossil fuel industry. Earlier in the school year, students at Harvard, Washington University, and dozens of other campuses worked with Rainforest Action Network to disrupt campus recruitment sessions organized by Bank of America and Citi, two of the largest financiers of the U.S. coal industry. Those actions, and the arrests this week, point to a rising tide of resistance that won’t be cowed by police response. A longer, deeper struggle is opening on campuses across the country, and administrators at the more than 300 universities with active divestment campaigns need to know that their chickens are coming home to roost. It's time to divest or expect resistance.

To support the Washington University in St. Louis students arrested this morning, call Chancellor Mark Wrighton at (314) 935-5100.

Tell him universities are for students, not for coal CEOs. Washington University needs to drop Peabody Energy so the school can get back to educating students, not arresting them.

Why We Are Blocking the Office of Harvard's President

Co-authored by Sima Atri, Benjamin Franta, Sidni Frederick, Ted Hamilton, Jacob Lipton, Chloe Maxmin, Brett Roche, Kelsey Skaggs, Henney Sullivan, Tyler VanValkenburg, Jacob Lipton, Zoë Onion, Olivia Kivel, and Canyon Woodward on behalf of Divest Harvard. This op-ed originally appeared on Stacy Clark's blog on Huffington Post.

This morning we began blocking the main entrance to Massachusetts Hall, which houses the office of Harvard University President Drew Faust and other top administrators. We are here to demand an open and transparent dialogue with the Harvard Corporation—Harvard's main governing body—on fossil fuel divestment. To date, President Faust and Harvard University have rejected the case for divestment and refused to engage in public dialogue about divestment and climate change. Alongside the 72% of Harvard undergraduates and 67% of Harvard Law students, as well as the students, faculty, and alumni of Divest Harvard, we refuse to accept our university's unwillingness to hold a public meeting on this critical issue. Photo by @DivestHarvard on Twitter.

We are here today because we believe in a better Harvard. We are here because it is our duty to act. We are here today because it is our moral responsibility as students to ensure that Harvard does not contribute to and profit from the problem but instead aligns its institutional actions and policies with the shared interests of society.

We take this action with the conviction that Harvard can, must, and will be a leader in responding to the climate crisis. We owe it to the world's less fortunate and future generations to lead the way to a livable planet.

Human-made climate change is already severely disrupting weather patterns and causing misery to those most vulnerable to the effects of droughtflooding, and famine. Despite the universal acknowledgment by scientists and world governments that drastic action is needed to address this problem, we continue to extract and burn carbon energy sources at an accelerating rate.

Unless we act swiftly to restructure our economy and to end our consumption of fossil fuels, the planet faces catastrophic disturbances in the very near future. The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warns that we have less than 15 years to overhaul our energy economy, is the latest recognition that the time for bold and courageous action is upon us.

Harvard enjoys a privileged position. It is a global leader in research, thought, and policy, and its alumni, faculty, and administrators enjoy tremendous influence over our economy and political culture. Harvard has the moral authority to break the stranglehold of passivity when our governments are unable or unwilling to address climate change's impending menace. And even if Harvard were not a prominent institution, the moral imperative still exists to stop profiting from damage done to others. The fact that Harvard chooses to calculate profit from corporate activities that push damages onto others—including ourselves and our children—is intolerable, ultimately unsustainable, and must stop.

Harvard's divestment from the fossil fuel industry will accomplish two important goals. First, it will allow Harvard to retain the moral integrity of an institution purporting to care about a livable future. Today the Harvard community profits from fossil fuel investments because the true costs of oil, coal, and gas are borne by other communities. Communities close to extraction sites are being robbed of their health and communities on the frontlines of climate disasters are being robbed of their lives and cultures. Younger generations, including Harvard's own students, are being robbed of a chance at a livable future. It is unconscionable and illogical for us to continue supporting an industry that violates basic human values and the fundamental purpose of our own institution.

Second, divestment will send a strong message that our society can no longer tolerate business as usual with the fossil fuel industry. The corrupt political practices and shameful climate denial peddled by gas, oil, and coal companies have stood in the way of proactive energy policies for far too long. Harvard's wealth and influence bring with them a special responsibility to act, and this is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss.

As the university demonstrated when it divested from tobacco and partially divested from Apartheid, Harvard's endowment can be put into alignment with shared values. We are not asking our university to inject politics into its finances: we are asking it to stop sponsoring and profiting from climate change. By investing in fossil fuel companies, Harvard itself is responsible for their behavior. President Faust's recent announcement that Harvard will sign onto the non-binding Principles for Responsible Investment and the Carbon Disclosure Project implicitly recognizes that the university cannot ignore its social responsibility when it comes to its investments and climate change.

As over one hundred Harvard faculty argued in their letter to President Faust earlier this month, it is far too late for business as usual and statements to continue that do not commit the university to action. The governing Corporation's refusal to hold an open meeting on the issue of divestment—as well as the President's recent denial that fossil fuel companies prevent political action on global warming and a Corporation member's suggestion that Harvard students thank BP for its energy practices—betray a disconcerting lack of understanding and urgency with respect to the impending risk of climate disaster.

We stand in solidarity with students and activists around the world who are raising their voices to demand that our institutions and leaders reject the carbon economy and begin aggressive action toward a greener future. We welcome members of the Harvard community and the public to our peaceful gathering in front of Massachusetts Hall. And we invite President Faust and the Harvard Corporation to join us in an open and transparent meeting to discuss the divestment of Harvard's endowment from the fossil fuel industry.

The world, and Harvard as part of it, cannot wait any longer.

Why Washington University in St. Louis Should Ditch Peabody Coal

This article first appeared in Washington University in St. Louis' Student Life on April 10, 2014.  On April 30, the UN’s International Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the best available scientific report on global warming and the likely consequences of continued carbon pollution. Based on 12,000 peer-reviewed studies, the IPCC’s report describes a terrifying future where dramatic climatic warming brings about “breakdown of food systems,” severe shortages in drinking and irrigation water, massive flooding, and social violence. Most importantly, the IPCC’s report stressed that decisions being made now will have a massive impact on the severity of climate change’s impacts. Without immediate and dramatic action to curb emissions, the report warns, the harms of global warming could spiral “out of control,” past the point where human action could avert catastrophe.  In order to prevent such a scenario, the top UN climate official warned, “three quarters of the fossil fuel reserves need to stay in the ground.” washUoccupation Greg Boyce, a member the board at Washington University in St. Louis, disagrees with the global scientific community; he thinks what the world needs to burn much, much more coal. As CEO of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, Boyce may have the largest carbon footprint of any living private citizen (coal-fired power is the single largest source of global climate changing emissions). According to Boyce, climate change isn’t a problem. “For too long,” says Boyce, “we’ve been focused on the wrong priorities…the greatest crisis we confront is not an environmental crisis.”  Instead, Peabody Energy has determined that inadequate access to energy is "the world's number one human and environmental crisis," and Boyce has hired the world’s largest PR company to cast Peabody Energy as a kind of international aid organization that trots around the globe benevolently building coal plants for the world’s poor (according to the Guardian, Peabody’s PR consultant is infamous for serving “governments with poor human rights records and corporations in trouble;” its former clients include the tobacco industry.) We are asked to presume that Peabody’s huge advertising budget reflects primarily Boyce’s zeal for serving the global poor and ignore the fact that a “more coal ASAP” policy is enormously for Peabody. Never mind that, according to the IPCC, building more coal infrastructure will cook the planet, create new “hotspots” of poverty and hunger, and increase the gaps between rich and poor. Boyce and his mouthpieces, like Washington University’s Chancellor Mark Wrighton, are hoping that we will choke down their inevitability argument about global coal expansion if they slather it with phony smarm about caring for vulnerable populations (you should be able to watch Wrighton recite his lines this week). Do you really believe that Greg Boyce’s coal expansion dreams are motivated by empathy instead of a desire to lock in profitable coal infrastructure before carbon regulations set in? Speaking of carbon regulations, Greg Boyce and Peabody Energy are explicitly against them. On Peabody’s website, you can find a toolkit replete with anti-EPA talking points alleging that carbon regulations will have “no impact” on climate change and brilliantly observing that that U.S. coal contributes “only a fraction” of global emissions (in 2010, coal-fired power contributed 28.3% of U.S. carbon emissions in a country with the highest per-capita carbon totals). Under Greg Boyce, Peabody is not only pushing for suicidal investments in new coal infrastructure, the company is actively campaigning against any government action that would begin to constrain carbon pollution. Shamefully, Boyce has been able to purchase Washington University’s academic integrity in order to advance his deadly farce. For $5 million from Peabody Energy (with matching grants from Arch Coal and Ameren), Washington University has been willing to lend its academic credibility to the misleading advertising slogan “clean coal,” a misnomer for carbon capture and sequestration technologies that don’t exist. In a September 2013 press release, Peabody Energy obliquely referred to Washington University’s research into carbon capture technology as a justification for opposing common-sense carbon regulations. Peabody Energy argued coal’s carbon emissions should not be regulated until pie-in-the-sky carbon capture technologies are available, even while admitting that these options are “simply not commercially available and not able to satisfy America's need.” With this cynical ploy, Greg Boyce’s exploitation of our university reached a new, shameful low. Simply put, Peabody Energy is a rogue corporation bent on undermining science, damaging the climate past the point of no return, and blocking meaningful action that could avert climate catastrophe. Maintaining Gregory Boyce as a member of the University’s board is beyond the pale, and continuing to associate with Peabody Energy is unconscionable for Washington University. Clearly, Peabody Energy is beyond reform, but Washington University in St. Louis may not be. Boyce has only been member of our board since 2009 (back when Peabody successfully conspired to defeat an early climate bill). Students at the Brookings sit-in understand that their action won’t solve climate change, but they are telling the truth: Greg Boyce is undeserving of reward or recognition for his criminal behavior. Through their action, students are taking a stand against what amounts to a university-sanctioned war on ecology and society by Greg Boyce and Peabody Energy. The students have drawn a bright moral line, which means neutrality is no longer an option at Washington University. Do you stand with the students, or with the CEO of Peabody Energy, Greg Boyce?

Why We're Sitting in at WashU (And We're Not Leaving)

By Caroline Burney, Senior at Washington University. Crossposted from We Are Powershift. I’ve learned many things in my four years at Washington University in St. Louis--not all of them in the classroom. For example, before I became a student at Wash U, I had never heard of Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal corporation. In St. Louis, Peabody ingratiates itself to the local community by posing as a benefactor of the arts, charitable corporate ‘citizen,’ and hero tackling “energy poverty.” It all sounds pretty good until you realize that Peabody Energy is the world’s largest private sector coal corporation whose business model propagates climate change and destroys communities. Peabody’s list of crimes is a veritable laundry list of social and environmental injustices: the destruction of mountains in West Virginia, the forced relocation of Navajo and Hopi Indian tribes in Black Mesa, Arizona, being a major supporter of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which have been strong advocates of controversial legislation like “Stand Your Ground” laws, the destruction of Rocky Branch, Illinois through aggressive mining and logging, and the distortion of democracy here in St. Louis by striking down a city-wide ballot initiative. [caption id="attachment_23613" align="alignnone" width="500"]First night of sit-in demanding Washington University cut ties with Peabody Energy First night of sit-in demanding Washington University cut ties with Peabody Energy.[/caption] Peabody CEO Greg Boyce also holds one more distinction: member of the Washington University Board of Trustees. Since Boyce was placed on the board in 2009, students have been actively organizing against Peabody Energy’s presence on campus. We have demanded that Boyce be removed from the Board of Trustees and that the University change the name of the “Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization,” a research entity to which Peabody and Arch Coal donated $5,000,000. We have met with the Chancellor -- multiple times. We have dropped banners at coal events, peacefully disrupted speeches by Greg Boyce on campus, marched through campus and taken our demands to Peabody’s headquarters. We have protested with residents from Black Mesa, collected signatures for the Take Back St. Louis ballot initiative and rallied with the United Mine Workers in their fight against Peabody. But, five years later, Boyce is still on the board, the name of the Clean Coal Consortium remains unchanged, and Chancellor Wrighton continues to stand behind Peabody Energy. Indeed, just this week he emailed us saying, “your opinion that peabody energy behaves in an ‘irresponsible and unjust manner’ is not one that I share.” The Administration has successfully used a “deny by delay” process by holding town hall meetings and developing task forces around renewable energy and energy efficiency while ignoring the role that coal plays on the campus. Thus, like many campus divestment campaigns across the country, we are at a crossroads. We’ve decided that it’s time to escalate to let Chancellor Wrighton and Greg Boyce know that we’re running out of time and we’re not going to back down. We are engaging in a sit-in of our admissions office to tell Chancellor Wrighton that our university can no longer legitimize destructive fossil fuel corporations. By having Greg Boyce on the Board of Trustees and hosting the “Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization,” the University is propagating the lie that coal is clean. But people who live in the communities where Peabody mines, including Black Mesa and Rocky Branch, know that coal is never clean. Escalating on campus is scary. We know it is going to be divisive. We know our Chancellor fundamentally disagrees with us. But not escalating is even scarier. Not escalating means Peabody continues to destroy communities and our climate. And that’s a risk we cannot take. Let Wash U know that you stand with us by signing our petition here.

The Last Message Becky Wrote To You

Becky visionaryFor the last two weeks, we’ve been grieving the loss of RAN’s beloved executive director, Rebecca Tarbotton, who died tragically on December 26. In late December, Becky was working on a letter to you that she planned to send in the New Year. We’ve decided to share the full letter below. We will warn you that reading this letter will be hard. It was written by an inspirational visionary and friend who was robbed from us too soon. But we felt it was important to share the full letter because it presents a vision for 2013 that we all share, and it's about you. We are asking that you leave a comment below or reply via email to with your thoughts on this vision, and on how we can join forces in 2013 in new and more fearless ways. Because, as Becky put it so perfectly, “protecting forests, our climate and human rights really doesn’t happen without you.”
Dear friends, RAN has a vision for 2013, but it only works if you see it as your vision too. It’s big, it’s bold and it will take all of us. I will tell you up front that all I am asking of you in this letter is for you to let me know you’re with us. We on the RAN staff and Board believe that our core purpose is to protect endangered forests, move the country off of fossil fuels and defend human rights. And that the best possible way to do that is with effective, innovative and hard-hitting environmental corporate campaigning powered by people like you and me. If that resonates for you then you should keep reading. You’ve tasked us to think through the strategies most effective for protecting forests, the climate and human rights. You’ve tasked us with doing the research, the writing, the negotiating with some of the world’s largest corporations and worst polluters. But I need to also task you with something too. I need you to redouble your commitment to be part of this network that is needed to protect forests and the climate. You are the muscle behind our strategies. I don’t say this to make you feel good. I say it because it’s the truth. And if you believe me, it means doing more work than you ever thought you would do for our environment. In 2013, you and I, the network powerful enough to inspire long-term change from corporate giants like Burger King, Home Depot, Citibank and Disney, have a big role to play. I believe that the most important places for us to put our collective energy in 2013 are:

• Defend ground zero for rainforest protection: Indonesia

Why the forests of Indonesia? Because that is where deforestation is happening at the most alarming rate. If Indonesia’s rainforests go, we will have to find a way to explain to our grandchildren why orangutans and Sumatran tigers no longer exist. And if we lose these forests, our climate emissions will increase exponentially. This year, you will be asked to get even more involved in stopping the two main culprits of this deforestation: paper companies, like Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), and palm oil suppliers, like Cargill. In the first few months of the year, I hope you will join us so that we can go after APP like never before and launch a new campaign that gets unsustainable palm oil off our grocery store shelves.

• Double down on climate activism: Cut funding for fossil fuels

The clean energy revolution that you and I want to see cannot happen while the biggest banks in the country are funding fossil fuels. Together, we will follow the money. If you’re game, this can be the year we use every tool in our toolbox to push Bank of America, the leading funder of the coal industry, to dump fossil fuels for clean energy. And the year we take big action to push climate onto the forefront of the President’s agenda.

• Build our collective power

Last year, we spent a lot of time talking about you. Thinking about how to bring you ever closer, how to expand our numbers, and how we leverage our collective strength. But our next step is to listen. We plan to do a lot of listening to you in 2013, to hear what your visions are for our network, and to dream and scheme ways to build our power together. We need your help to get louder, to be bolder and to have the most powerful impact. Will you join us to expose APP for the first time ever in North America with your social media networks, to build awareness about the problems with palm oil community by community, to leverage your dollars to push Bank of America out of the coal industry? Will you ask your friends to join? What more could you do, would you do in your community, online, in the streets as part of RAN?
I know that there are a lot of other pressing issues out there. But I believe in focus and in high leverage fights that can catalyze big changes. So, it’s going to be a big year. And it needs to be. We are in the midst of what history will undoubtedly call the next industrial revolution. And the evidence that it’s happening is all around us, if we care to look. In 2012, people like you helped shutter 125 coal plants and inspired Disney to transform everything about the way it uses paper. So, not to sound cheesy, but our big vision for 2013 is you. This is a community that can see windmills replacing coal fields. That believes a tree is worth more standing than cut down for paper. That knows people power can trump corporate power. Protecting forests, our climate and human rights really doesn’t happen without you...nothing happens without you. Together, I know we can take on the biggest, most well-funded polluters and exploiters in the world—and win. I know because I’ve seen it, from our Burger King victory in 1987 to our Disney win last year. I cannot thank you enough for the emails you’ve sent, the calls you’ve made, the funds you’ve given, the rallies and protests you’ve attended. It's hard to grasp the enormity of our huge accomplishments as a network. I hope you’re as ready as I am for the possibilities of 2013. For the future, for our forests, Becky Tarbotton

Hurricane Sandy Haunts CEOs at Economic Outlook Conference

As Bank of America Co-Chief Operating Officer, David Darnell, and outgoing Duke Energy CEO, Jim Rogers, met behind closed doors to forecast 2013's corporate profits—a storm was brewing in Charlotte. Immediately before the heavily guarded economic summit was set to begin, an inconvenient visitor arrived and demanded to be let into the meeting: Hurricane Sandy. Buoyed on a flood of climate protestors from around North Carolina, the 12-foot Hurricane Sandy puppet ensured that responsibility for the ongoing global climate catastrophe wasn't ignored, but was placed squarely where it belongs: on the shoulders of coal pushing corporations like Bank of America and Duke Energy. While Bank of America's executives focus on the bank's profits, the outlook for our communities is bleak. Thanks to Bank of America's coal financing, the outlook is rapid climate change, increasing drought, famine, and superstorms like Sandy. The presence of Sandy's likeness at this economic outlook conference points to the fact that in the months to come, climate will be impossible to ignore—and will majorly disrupt global markets and communities. Featuring weeping eyes and strands of hair inscribed with the neighborhoods and boroughs devastated by the hurricane, the giant Sandy puppet assailed the meeting's entryways, and repeatedly faced off with swarms of Charlotte police. While police were able to prevent the Hurricane Sandy puppet from accessing the meeting, these security forces failed to prevent the climate protests from disrupting the meeting. Only a few minutes into the panel discussion, which focused heavily on Bank of America executive, David Darnell and Duke Energy CEO, Jim Rogers, a RAN activist jumped onstage and unfurled a banner reading "Bank of America: Stop Funding Coal." The message was successfully delivered, and the activist was ushered out of the building—but not before media took notice and documented the intervention. As urgency continues to build around the need for strong climate action to end investment and consumption of fossil fuels, bad actors like Bank of America will experience increasing pressure to stop banking on the global catastrophe of climate change—and we won't stop until they do.

“Coal Blooded”: New Report Says Coal Plants Disproportionately Impact Communities Of Color

A new report from the NAACP called "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People" (co-authored by former RAN staffer Adrian Wilson) paints a grim picture. Grim, but not surprising. Of the 378 coal plants across the country, 75 are considered to be the most toxic and receive an “F” on the report’s environmental justice report card. Four million people live within three miles of those plants. In fact, some 78 percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. The report investigates the overall toxicity of emissions, or "dirtiness," of America's coal plants, and combines these emissions ratings with demographic data to rank a coal plant’s effect on neighboring communities. It looks at race, income and population density when looking at the dirtiest coal plants. Climate justice is the intersection between climate change, fossil fuel extraction and combustion, and social justice. It’s the point where low-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by these environmental and climate catastrophes. “Coal pollution is literally killing low-income communities and communities of color,” stated NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous, who added that it is an issue of environmental justice. “There is no disputing the urgency of this issue. Environmental justice is a civil and human rights issue when our children are getting sick, our grandparents are dying early, and mothers and fathers are missing work,” stated Jealous. The report is a combined effort of the NAACP, the Indigenous Environmental Network and the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. Read the full report here.

Time To End $122 Billion In Taxpayer Handouts To Fossil Fuels

[caption id="attachment_16098" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Time for the sun to set on the age of oil."]oil-derik-sunset[/caption] Say you live next door to a polluting factory that is poisoning you and your family, and you decide to stop buying whatever that factory makes, voting for alternatives with your dollar. How would you feel if the owners of that factory then went and bought off as many politicians as possible so that they could get policies in place that would keep alternatives to their product from ever making it to market? You’d be outraged, right? Now imagine if, on top of all that, you were forced to pay money to subsidize that factory's business operations even though it was making record profits. Intolerable, you say? You’re damn right. Yet that’s exactly the scenario we’re in right now. Big Oil is making obscene profits and using them to pervert our democracy in the oil industry’s favor, in an attempt to keep renewable energy out of the game as long as possible. Even worse, we’re handing the Big Oil companies $4 billion every year (though other estimates have put the number at between $78 and 150 billion) to pad their bottom line and keep us all hooked on their dirty fuel. That’s why RAN joined with over 50 other leading environmental organizations to call for an end to some $122 billion in handout to fossil fuels industries over the next 10 years. Congress’ Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – a.k.a. the “Super Committee” tasked with eliminating $1.5 trillion in federal debt – has the power to end these unnecessary subsidies once and for all. Read the letter we sent to Rep. Jeb Hensarling & Senator Patty Murray, co‐chairs of the Super Committee, here. More from Oil Change International:
Coalition Calls for End to $122 billion in Handouts to Fossil Fuels (Washington, DC – October 5, 2011) Today leaders of 52 national and state organizations sent a letter to the members of the Super Congress (formally known as the Congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction) demanding that the elimination of government handouts to the oil, coal and gas industries be a central part of the deficit reduction plan they are to present to the full Congress by November 23rd. Eliminating subsidies to the fossil fuels industry could reduce the national debt by $122 billion over ten years while bettering the environment and public health for America’s families these leaders asserted. “Americans of all political orientations strongly favor ending these subsidies to the oil, gas and coal industries” they wrote, adding that “[M]ost Americans feel that Members of Congress are more responsive to their campaign donors than their constituents. Working to remove subsidies from the fossil fuel industry is one of the clearest ways you can help restore your constituents’ faith in the ability of Congress to represent them.” Fossil fuel corporations do not need federal handouts in order to produce energy. Over the last decade, the top five oil and gas companies alone reported over $1 trillion in profits, and another $71 billion in profits in just the first two quarters of 2011. Coal companies, which have received government aid for nearly a century, have seen their profits skyrocket in 2011. Peabody Energy, the largest private sector coal company, earned has already posted $461.3 million in profits in 2011. Consol Energy first quarter profits nearly doubled from 2010 to reach $192 million.
Read the full post over at Oil Change International's site.

Bank Of America's Shirking Responsibility Statement

Stop Banking on CoalLast week, Bank of America released its 2010 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. It is more accurately described as "Bank of America's 2010 Shirking Responsibility Report," however. The document, titled "Opportunity in Motion," is  87 pages of information about how the company conducts global business and holds itself accountable to "customers, employees, shareholders and communities," according to an introduction from BoA CEO Brian T. Moynihan. The section addressing Bank of America's environmental policies is toward the end of the report and breaks into two sections: "Financing a Low Carbon Economy" and "Operations." While banks absolutely should promote energy efficiency, recycling and green-building in their operations, RAN is much more interested in the investments that banks make (or don't make) in environmentally impactful industries — so we took a close look at how, exactly, Bank of America says it is financing a low carbon economy. The chapter opens with a quote, "[We] have consistently operated from the firm conviction that business and environmental objectives go hand in hand." It's great that Bank of America acknowledges its responsibility to environmental concerns. The company goes on to promote its much-publicized Environmental Business Initiative, which was started in 2007 and commits BoA to spending $20 billion over 10 years to address "climate change through our lending, investing, products and services, and enhancing the efficiency of our own operations." As of 2010 BoA has spent $11.6 billion of that $20 billion in a series of investments that are not specifically listed in the report and don't appear to be on the company's website either. This lack of transparency makes it hard to thoroughly analyze Bank of America's Environmental Business Initiative investments. Instead, we're left to wonder what, exactly, BoA means by "innovative companies addressing climate change issues" when it describes its "Strategic Environmental Investments." Or how, exactly, Bank of America "invests in transactions that finance emission reductions in the global carbon markets." Bank of America goes on to state that it has "increased our investments in and financing of advanced energy technologies to encourage the growth and development of cleaner renewables and other low-carbon energy such as solar, wind, biomass and biofuel." They provide examples of  investments in wind and solar energy. To test this assertion I looked up Bank of America's investments in alternative energy in RAN's Bloomberg database. It would appear that in 2010 Bank of America invested over $590 million in alternative energy. But a closer look shows that the money was invested in 5 companies, one of which is a "clean" coal company, one biomass, two natural gas and only one solar company. This research indicates to me that Bank of America's "other low-carbon energy" investments could mostly be investments in false solutions rather than true clean, green, renewable energy sources. At the end of the chapter, Bank of America includes two short paragraphs to describe its coal policy. Part of the statement reads, "Our coal policy is focused on advancing technologies, including carbon capture and storage, supporting best practices in managing the environmental impacts attributed to coal and addressing the surface mining of coal, in particular in eastern Appalachia in the U.S." This statement is unimpressive for a number of reasons. First, I suspect that Bank of America means central Appalachia and not eastern Appalachia — a minor but telling mistake. Second, instead of committing to financing less coal, the company describes investments in "clean" coal and mediating the impacts of the coal industry. This is unsurprising, since Bank of America is the #1 bank invested in the coal industry, according to Bloomberg. In 2010 BoA invested $3.9 billion in coal companies — compared to the aforementioned $590 million in "renewables and other low-carbon energy," such as it was.  If Bank of America invested this money in its Environmental Business Initiative instead, imagine how quickly they would reach their goal of $20 billion for the environment! Third, Bank of America is trying to spin its role in bankrolling the devastatingly destructive coal industry as environmentally responsible. Shame on Bank of America. If Bank of America wants to position itself as an environmentally responsible corporate citizen, the company has a lot of work to do. It has a long way to go before BoA can transparently demonstrate a shift away from investment in dirty fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources. I look forward to Bank of America becoming a true financier of low-carbon energy.

Royal BS

Hundreds of climate activists set up camp this morning next to the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in Edinburgh. Since an October 2008 bailout, taxpayers have owned more than 80% of the bank. But Downing Street won't enforce basic environmental standards at RBS so Climate Camp is taking direct action. The camp is calling for RBS to end financing of dirty fossil fuel projects like Canada's tar sands. RBS defended itself in the press by touting its backing of alternative energy projects. The bank told the Guardian that "in 2006 the bank was the world's largest single financier of wind and green energy." It told the BBC that "In recent years RBS has been one of the most active banks in the world in providing funding for renewable energy projects." Those claims are royal BS. According to financial market data compiled by Bloomberg, RBS ranked third as financier for alternative energy companies in 2006. In the period since the taxpayer bailout, RBS ranks a distant 19th! This chart illustrates the point. Of the more than $15 billion RBS raised for the energy sector since the bailout, just $83 million went to alternative energy--less than one percent.

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