In my November 2016 post titled “Clean Energy” is a Dirty Joke I explained how the development of carbon capture and storage has been helped along by a global group of leaders working under the banner of “clean energy”.
“There is a global group called the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) which holds forums, events and discussions for energy ministers and secretaries. Within this arrangement there is the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, this is where the real “clean energy” action happens.”
Martin Ferguson attended these forums when he was resources minister. He also launched the project which he now chairs called CO2-CRC which is currently pumping CO2 under the Otway Ranges.
The term “clean energy” has been promulgated by the agents of financial elites since at least 2006 when the Clinton Global Initiative – Annual Meeting hosted a two-part panel discussion, moderated by John Podesta and titled ‘Energy and Climate Change: Financing Clean Energy’. The first portion of the panel discussion was titled ‘Clean Energy Investment Boom’ and featured Goldman Sachs economist Abby Joseph Cohen, venture capitalist John Doerr, and carbon trader extraordinaire John Paul Moscarella.
The ClimateWorks Foundation is John Podesta’s baby. He developed its networks into political and financial elite circles including the think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies who in 2007 published a report titled ‘The Age of Consequences” in which Podesta coauthored a section with his colleague at the Center for American Progress Peter Ogden titled ‘Security Implications of Climate Scenario 1: Expected Climate Change Over Next 30 Years’.
“Rather, the question is whether coal will continue to be a driver of climate change or if the development and implementation of clean coal and, in particular, carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) technology can make it a viable fuel source in a carbon-constrained economy. A 2007 MIT study, “The Future of Coal,” found that, in spite of the lead times involved, CCS technology can in fact be deployed on a wide enough scale to reduce significantly the carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants by 2050, though only if a global carbon emissions restriction or tax is in place and near-term government investment in R&D is increased.”
Earlier in 2007 the Climateworks Foundation published a report titled ‘DESIGN TO WIN PHILANTHROPY’S ROLE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST GLOBAL WARMING’. In the section titled ‘Dethroning King Coal’ we find a planned capitulation to the might of coal – if only we can find a way to sequester the CO2.
“Reduce emissions from unavoidable coal through carbon capture and sequestration (CCS). Even under the sunniest of scenarios, efficiency gains and expanded use of alternative energy sources won’t displace enough coal in the next two decades to forestall catastrophic climate change, so we must find a way to separate CO2 emissions from coal plants and store them beneath the earth. CCS, which remains in its infancy, deserves a critical push from philanthropy so that it can be rapidly deployed where demand for coal power is the greatest.”
Who are Podesta’s players?
Anna Skarbek is the CEO of ClimateWorks Australia and board member of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. In her 2014 article written for The Conversation titled ‘Direct Action’s here, but how will Australia cut carbon after 2020?’ she echoed the broad vision articulated by John Podesta in 2007. You can see her extensive networks here.
“Alternatively, a mix of renewables, carbon capture and storage and/or nuclear could be used. This low carbon electricity could then replace petrol and diesel in cars and passenger transport and replace gas used for cooking, heating and cooling buildings. Gas would be used in trucks replacing diesel, and gas would be the main fossil fuel used in industry. Some of this can be shifted to bioenergy or sequestered with carbon capture and storage, and the rest sequestered with carbon forestry.”
In the disclosure statement Skarbek reveals at least one very hawkish financial supporter.
“Anna Skarbek works for ClimateWorks which is funded by philanthropy and Monash University. Additional funding was received for the Deep Decarbonisation Pathways Project from ARENA, Accenture, the Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute, TransGrid and the Mullum Trust.”
The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute is an unabashed supporter of all new carbon capture and storage projects especially coal and enhanced oil recovery projects. This organisation is based in Australia and is the acknowledged leader in supporting the development of carbon capture and storage globally.
In 2016 Skarbek was invited by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) to join its ‘Leadership Forum on Energy Transition for Australia’ along with 2 members of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The forum was charged with developing a “blueprint for energy transition”, and very much like the Australian Renewable Energy Agency the plan is to manage the “transition”. The kind of transition Skarbek advocates requires a decades long (minimum) phase of transition in order to develop the necessary renewables. This transition phase would be comprised of a massive growth in ‘clean coal’, “clean gas”, industrial CCS for oil refineries and CO2 utilization projects, CO2 enhanced oil recovery, biomass (wood chip) burning, deep-sea storage, and saline aquifer storage.
The ACF are the current lead agency in the #StopAdani coalition. This puts them squarely in the field of climate activism. It is only possible for ACF to support the development of a blueprint that will influence the Clean Energy Finance Corporation because ACF and their allies in the climate movement do not acknowledge the reality of “clean energy”.
John Hepburn is the founder and executive director of the Sunrise Project, he is also a coauthor of the 2010 impact funded climate activism plan called ‘Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom’. The Sunrise Project is funded by a collection of foundations lead by the Sandler Foundation and specialist impact funders all connected to John Podesta and the ClimateWorks Foundation. Email exchanges between Hepburn and various Sandler Foundation officials revealed in the Wikileaks Podesta Emails show a high commitment to masking the source of funding for the Sunrise Project which seems to be the real strategic centre of climate activism. In an email to Sandler Foundation colleagues that was forwarded to John Podesta, Hepburn’s contact Sergio Knaebel made this investor like statement about the Sunrise Project.
“I’m starting to think that our high tolerance for risk on this project is paying off!”
In another email that passed through Human Rights Watch director Ken Roth, and philanthropist and former banker Herbert Sandler before it found its way to Podesta, Hepburn explains in colourful terms how much he would like to not reveal the organisation’s funding.
“4. If I refuse, the maximum penalty is 6 months in jail. If I didn’t have children I’d be happy to tell them where to go (on principle) but it isn’t really an option;
5. This potentially creates a situation where we may need to disclose our funding and grant agreements;”
Calling the shots.
In my November 2016 post titled “Clean Energy” is a Dirty Joke I described “clean energy” like this:
““Clean Energy” is a rhetorical device of unprecedented scope. A poorly defined but effective shield for any pundit, mouthpiece or messaging agent to use when speaking of a seemingly uncertain energy future.”
Yesterday’s statements by Australian Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg reveal just how crucial our perception and understanding of “clean energy” is in manufacturing consent for carbon capture and storage. This statement by the Frydenberg is the most telling.
“The CEFC is after all not the renewable energy finance corporation, but one that is explicitly encouraged under part six of the Act to also invest in energy efficiency and low emission alternatives.”
Yes, “clean energy” is not the same as renewable energy. They are not interchangeable terms, but you could be forgiven for thinking they were. Nobody has taken it upon themselves to explain the difference because there is no gain to be made from doing so. The climate movement in its various forms have no interest in revealing the pre-emptive capitulations of those who make high level funding decisions. John Podesta sits at the wellspring of funding for climate activism and the political will for clean energy finance, and has done so for more than a decade. The sooner we can recognise and sideline the organisations and players he has helped install the sooner we can begin to seriously fight the development of the Galilee basin.
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) have claimed that they will “pursue all avenues” to stop the 1 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) loan that was broadly reported in early December, 2016. I will show here that there are many reasons why one of those avenues should be telling the truth and not staying silent in the face of the shell game played by Adani, all levels of government, senior editors, and quite probably the impact philanthropists who drive the green movement.
Michael West prepared the Dirty Deeds report for ACF, but nowhere in the report is there any reference to the North Galilee Basin Rail Project. NAIF and Matt Canavan have never named the rail project for which the loan is earmarked, and they have never named the Adani entity that has applied for the loan. I would argue that this lack of confirmation is no reason for an investigation that completely ignores a rail project for which there have been significant developmental goals achieved.
In December Greenpeace released their ‘Off Track: Why NAIF can’t approve the Carmichael Rail Link’ report which cites the ‘North Galilee Basin Rail Project, EIS Executive Summary’ in reference to the exclusivity of “the rail line”.
Greenpeace effectively invented a project called the “Carmichael Rail Project” which kept the name of the actual rail project under investigation out of the spotlight. No project with the name “Carmichael Rail Project” is mentioned on any Queensland Department of State Development publications, nor does any other environmental group use this contrived proper name. The two projects in question are called the Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project (CCMR) and the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR).
The Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) in their April 18, 2017 update titled ‘North Galilee Basin Rail approvals and NAIF’ take the position that it was “broadly reported” that the NAIF loan was earmarked for the NGBR and as such consideration should be given to the elements of that particular project. Just like all of us, they are required to work with provisional assumptions in the absence of a primary source provided by NAIF showing precisely which Adani entity is applying for the loan and which particular rail project would receive funding. This was the first time that EDO Qld has issued an update or advice about the NGBR.
Gail Burke and Dea Clarke prepared a piece on December 3, 2016 that was cited by EDO Qld in their April update and by Greenpeace in their Off Track report. It now contains a map showing both the CCMR and the NGBR. Before I got in contact with Gail Burke on December 3 the image shown in the article showed only the CCMR.
350.org.au created an archive copy of the Courier Mail exclusive from December 3, 2016 by Renee Viellaris. This piece has become the compromised primary source for information about the Adani NAIF loan application. No other digital copy of this article is available online.
The Sydney Morning Herald & The Guardian Australia reported the content of the CM article on December 3 which includes mention of NGBR and various details from the CM exclusive.
Michael Koziol and David Wroe
In contradiction to the assertion by Greenpeace that “the rail line” will be “exclusive”, Resolve Coal who have their proposed Hyde Park mine site adjacent to the proposed Carmichael mine site claim to have an “existing” MOU with Adani.
On their web page titled ‘BIODIVERSITY OFFSETS FOR MAJOR GALILEE BASIN PROJECTS’ CO2 Australia specify that they delivered offsets for both CCMR and NGBR.
The Australia Institute ‘Don’t be so Naif’ report was cited multiple times by Michael West in the Dirty Deeds report and mentions NGBR describing it as the “specific proposal under consideration”.
Carmichael Coal Mine and Rail Project
North Galilee Basin Rail Project
Recent and very clear statements made by Adani spokespersons and Adani Australia CEO Jeyakumar Janakaraj in the Economic Times of India.
Jackie Trad announced that the NGBR was part of a ‘combined project” and “critical infrastructure” last October.
Queensland Law Society, October update following the combined projects announcement.
RTI disclosure showing stakeholder and bureaucrat communications leading up to the combined projects, critical infrastructure announcement.
QCF response to combined projects
In the Dirty Deeds report Michael West shares the questions he presented to the office of the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo. The second of the 3 questions intrigued me:
“2. Has the Minister discussed this kind of solution (as the rail line is dependent upon the mine being built and Efic is already devoting resources to assist NAIF in project evaluation)?”
I would argue that the rail line is not dependent on the mine getting built, but rather the rail line getting built will assure that the many mines proposed for the Galilee Basin get developed. The rail line is the means of export that makes opening up the Galilee possible, and a greenfield, vertically integrated, multi-user standard gauge rail line is the most profitable way of delivering the necessary economies of scale to justify investment in the Galilee Basin.
When I make a call to an organisation seeking information about an issue I assume that organisation has a process to vet callers to ensure that the appropriate person deals with that individual (me). When I call I usually say my first name and ask for information. This is what I did today when I called the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC). I was put through to a case manager who, at the end of the call when I asked for them to repeat their last name, refused saying they were concerned with my involvement with the media. I took lots of notes before the case manager twigged to my line of questioning and asked about my purpose and intentions. I told the case manager I was a blogger and was encouraging journalists to explore this story, I also told the case manager I was fighting for justice for Carol Prior, a complainant, native title holder, and member of the Indigenous corporation under examination. I didn’t tell the case manager I was glad I’d taken lots of notes and quotes.
Some context: Samantha Healy reported in October last year in the Townsville Bulletin that at the time Carol Prior and her fellow complainants spoke to her about their initial complaint “the watchdog [ORIC] refused to confirm the existence of the complaint”. I cover the issue here: https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2017/03/30/the-notice-of-examination-that-could-reveal-adanis-dirty-dealings-in-securing-the-ngbr-corridor/
Now we are witnessing the further delaying of the examination process with the appointment of a new examiner and a new examination. This is at a crucial time in the fight to #stopadani. In my previous phone call to ORIC I was told that the first examiner was delayed in their examination due to health issues and the holiday season. The case manager explained to me that because the first examination “wasn’t completed properly” due in part to instances when the examiner was “unable to access the [Indigenous] corporation” and unable to access “other” parties. The case manager also revealed “we had issues obtaining information”.
I was told by the case manager that we would not see anything published by ORIC until at the earliest “the first week in June”, a full 10 months after the complaint was first lodged and over 8 months after the publication of the Notice of Examination. I asked if the complainants would be informed before publication of any outcomes by ORIC and if they would receive any more information than would be made available for the public in any publication. The case worker said Carol Prior “will have to watch the website” and indicated that the complainants will receive no more information than any member of the public.
I explained how the timing of this delay only favoured powerful interests. I pointed out that proposed native title system reforms relating to Indigenous Land Use Agreements could be impacted by the outcome of the ORIC examination and that the NAIF funding final approval could come through in the next few weeks. I explained that the 1 billion Adani loan for a rail link is likely to be for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project for which Adani have a signed Body Corporate Indigenous Land Use Agreement which is one of the subjects of the Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation members complaint and therefore part of the ORIC examination.
This phone call raises so many questions. By “other” parties was the case manager referring to Adani? Why was “the corporation” unavailable? Why did ORIC, a regulator of corporate behaviour under the CATSI Act fail to ensure a prompt and accountable process? And why is a well resourced organisation like ORIC not prepared for calls from concerned citizens about a controversial coal complex on which their work could have a crucial impact?
In 2014 David Quinn was the Executive Director of Projects Queensland in Queensland Treasury. He was responsible for all coordinated projects worth more than 50 million AUD.
In a right to information request (RTI) disclosure made to Jeremy Tager at the North Queensland Conservation Council (RTI 493) David Quinn explains how the unspecified Galilee Basin rail project was “standard gauge” and that this was the key to “get the economies of scale”.
There are 2 rail projects proposed by Adani, the North Galilee Basin Rail Project is the one listed as “standard gauge”. It is a greenfield project that will vertically integrate Adani into the Galilee Basin coal complex providing rail infrastructure for several other mines for decades. The other rail project proposed by Adani is part of the Carmichael mine application. It is listed as “dual gauge” and is designed to connect to the existing narrow gauge system.
Here’s the full quote from David Quinn in RTI NQC493:
“The other issue here is that it is standard gauge which in a Qld sense is bespoke but makes sense for Galilee due to the need to transport the higher tonnages to offset the longer distances to get the economies of scale.
The benefit if it could be realised is the reasons you have previously outlined in that it becomes a vital piece of infrastructure, underwritten by ToP (noting the aversion of miners to this once common contractual arrangement) and that we would not drop a sleeper onto the ground until the Adani’s, GVK’s et are well and truly committed. Certainly a more liquid asset to allow our exit in the future.”
Adani have a tendency to telegraph their announcements through exclusives with large newspapers like the Courier Mail and India’s Economic Times. It was through a Courier Mail exclusive that we learned about the 1 billion dollar NAIF loan and for which rail project it had been earmarked.
Renee Viellaris in The Courier Mail:
“The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility has ticked off conditional approval for the North Galilee Basin Rail Project and will now undertake more detailed assessments of the project. “
While the Queensland premier was visiting India recently the Economic Times printed part of a statement from Adani. This statement, while widely syndicated across English language media in India, was never picked up in Australia.
Debjoy Sengupta quoting Adani in The Economic Times:
“Our vision is to operate a vertically integrated model – with the extraction of coal from our Carmichael Mine, transported by rail to Abbot Point, and exported to meet consumer and business demands in offshore markets. The project will build Australia’s largest thermal coal mine in the north Galilee Basin approximately 160km north-west of Clermont in Central Queensland, linked by a standard gauge North Galilee Basin Rail Line to two terminals at Abbot Point Port near Bowen,”
Why would the media in Australia ignore such a clear statement in favour of a specific piece of infrastructure that is under constant discussion here in Australia? One of the reasons is because they can, because no official media release is publicly available, and because the statement quoted in The Economic Times is a compromised primary source that can be easily ignored.
Either way the Adani quote specifies a “a standard gauge North Galilee Basin Rail Line” for a reason and that reason could well be because they want the market in India to feel confident that they are serious about having “a vertically integrated model”.
My current crowdfunding campaign is about digging up more answers by going back to a successful Qld Treasury RTI disclosure from 2014 on which the processing charge had never been paid. Treasury RTI 488.
RTI requests are all about the particulars of language.
Text of the RTI request:
“All documents relating to the announcement on November 17th in relation to the Infrastructure Enabling Agreement, including but not limited to the decision to provide Queensland government funding to facilitate Adani Mining Pty Ltd’s North Galilee Basin Rail project, including correspondence with the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Queensland Treasury, or Adani Mining Pty Ltd, its related entities or agents for the period from 1 September 2014 to 9 December 2014.”
Text of Treasury response:
“Decision made. Applicant did not pay the processing charges within required timeframe. Documents available upon payment of the processing charges of $509.20. Please contact the Administrative Review Unit on (07) 3035 1863 or by email email@example.com if you wish to access these documents.”
Here’s a link to my crowdfunding campaign:
One of the Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs) that makes the North Galilee Basin Rail Project possible could have been scuppered, or at least had a spot light pointed at it, if Adani hadn’t pulled the sort of scammy behaviour Twiggy Forrest would be proud of. That’s what I believe based on Carol Prior’s testimony from October 2014 and ongoing challenges to the Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Corporation (KMYAC) the representative body for the Juru native title claim.
“A lot of them didn’t show up and a lot of them don’t know what’s going on,”
“They don’t even know what’s in the ILUA [Indigenous land use agreement] or the auxiliary agreement because in both of them, when I was there around the negotiating table, there’s a confidentiality paragraph in there where you’re not able to talk about it to your family.”
Carol Prior and 4 other KMYAC members won a Notice of Examination on September 30, 2016 from the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations allowing it to be given full and free access to the corporation’s books. KMYAC were responsible for negotiations involved in the signing of ILUAs with Adani. The 5 KMYAC native title holders have concerns about “financial irregularities” and accountabilities, but they also have concerns about the exclusion of Juru people from negotiations.
“It is our submission that Kyburra has actually received monies from Adani Mining Pty Ltd during 2014-15 in the amount of $1.225 million.
“In addition, a Cultural Heritage Management Plan is in place and Adani transferred $825,000 to Kyburra for cultural heritage survey activities.”
The Juru ILUA signed with Adani and the Kyburra Munda Yalga Aboriginal Land Corporation was the first of 3 ILUAs making the North Galilee Basin Rail Project possible.
#StopAdani #Keepitintheground #NGBR #ILUA
Native title holders lodge objection to proposed North Galilee Basin rail project
Calls for Aboriginal corporation to hand over its books
The following links are taken from a briefing document I prepared for a friend who is a native title expert. It is the result of 2 years of research into the development of the Galilee Basin coal complex.
Indigenous Land Use Agreements applying to the North Galilee Basin Rail Project
Rail has been a focus of mine since my time as a shareholder activist with Over Our Dead Bodies. We attended the 2013 Aurizon AGM highlighting the vulnerability of Aurizon’s extensive networks to protest groups using a range of tactics. I later helped to co-found the Galilee Blockade group with which I am no longer associated.
My research has looked at the output and messaging of mainstream, progressive & business media, environmental groups & social movements, and governments at state and federal level. I have discerned through my research that they all must have some motivation to keep the spotlight off both the North Galilee Basin Rail Project (NGBR) and related Indigenous Land Use Agreements (ILUAs).
The fact that finding basic information about one crucial set of land owners along the investigation corridor of the NGBR took more than 18 months and a few helpful phone calls to the National Native Title Tribunal is very concerning. That politicians, journalists, and environmental spokespeople rarely if ever specify which of the 2 Adani rail projects they are discussing is concerning and infuriating. There appears to be a blithe unwillingness to embrace a fundamental truth about mining coal for export: Stop the rail line and you stop the mine!
It’s very simple. Stop the means of export. Stop critical infrastructure that has multiple vulnerabilities. If the train line is secured then the port will happen. If you know as much as you can about the likely rail corridor then you will have the best strategic starting position.
George Brandis is rushing to strengthen native title law in favour of miners and in the wake of the Noongar decision. There continues to be silence around the very ILUAs that will likely play a fundamental part in making the Galilee Basin coal complex possible. We ought to be looking as closely as we can at this situation, with discretion, sensitivity, and an eye toward finding the best possible outcomes for the black fella groups along the NGBR corridor.
A question posed in the title of a well cited piece by Greenpeace’s David Ritter, a native title expert, speaks volumes about how he may still feel about the National Native Title Tribunal and the native title system as a whole. It’s “A Sick Institution” presiding over a sick system and I think many would agree.
“Clean Energy” is a rhetorical device of unprecedented scope. A poorly defined but effective shield for any pundit, mouthpiece or messaging agent to use when speaking of a seemingly uncertain energy future. “Clean Energy” has given its name to many formal processes, organisations, and campaigns. Our climate leaders use the term when they talk about targets, and renewables, and “low carbon” futures. And for whatever it may signify “clean energy” does have a Wiki page, but (at the time of writing Nov 14, 2016) it is unpopulated and redirects you to the Sustainable Energy Wiki page.
As someone who is hellbent on finding a way to destroy fossil fools there is one thing that is certain, this juggernaut will not rest till it’s all gone. That’s how fossil fools have always played their cronyistic, monopolistic, deeply networked game. That’s how I look at motive and likelihoods.
When I discovered that some of the very same people who were presenting the most popular arguments for why we should #keepitintheground were also paving the way for carbon capture and storage I began asking questions about the development of this particular form of energy generation. Questions like: Why would organisations that are telling us about carbon bubbles, carbon budgets, unburnable carbon, and stranded assets be supporting the continued burning of gas, coal, and trees, and the expansion of geological storage of CO2 under the North Sea in old oil and gas fields owned by Shell and Statoil? Surely they care about ending the destruction?
I quickly realised I was asking the wrong questions. I shouldn’t be asking why, I should be asking how? How do fundamentally economic concepts like unburnable carbon, stranded assets, and carbon budgets work for the inevitable continuation of fossil fuel extraction and the wholesale destruction of forests? How much political will for carbon capture and storage is out there and how is it expressed? How are pundits, mouthpieces or messaging agents able to use “clean energy” to mask their support for energy that is in no way clean?
It’s impossible to answer these questions without going on the journey to understanding how conflated logics and rhetorical devices appear, are transmitted, and express themselves in language. This is the very heart of psychological warfare, the understanding of the spread and power of particular logics, and how the management of information, it’s architecture and the imperatives behind it’s production facilitates mass deception and behaviour change.
My broad methodology for understanding the messaging sphere and comprehending the logical underpinnings of key pieces of language is this: follow the money, interrogate the messaging, and analyse the networks.
This is my messaging interrogation methodology for leaders: When I hear a leader use the term “clean energy” I compare that to the policy, technology, and investment objectives for which they speak, vote, develop networks, and maintain silence.
Here are some very stark examples:
US Department of Energy, Research and Development webpage has “CLEAN ENERGY R&D” emblazoned at the top, near the bottom of the page is carbon capture and storage, and nuclear energy. US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has publicly thanked Senator Whitehouse for bringing forward a new bill aimed at providing tax credits for carbon capture utilisation and storage projects ( I’ll go into more detail later). Key projects funded by the US DoE involve CO2 scrubbed from coal-fired plants being used for enhanced oil recovery projects where CO2 is sequestered. Moniz has also publicly echoed James Hansen’s belief in nuclear energy as a key to “solving climate change”.
Jeremy Corbyn talks a big “clean energy” game, but he also voted in support of the pro carbon capture and storage policies Labour took to last year’s election. He once talked about reopening coal mines saying in an early interview
“The last deep mine coal mines in South Wales have gone but it’s quite possible that in future years coal prices will start to go up again around the world and maybe they’ll be a case for what is actually very high quality coal, particularly in South Wales, being mined again.”
In that same interview he responded in favour of CCS hinting at cost as a downside
“It’s complicated. At one level it looks very expensive but the advantages also look quite attractive”.
Of course he has since disingenuously distanced himself from his remarks about returning to coal mining saying “It was one question about one mine, I’m not in favour of reopening the mines.”
Canada’s environment minister Catherine McKenna stated in May this year that Canada’s carbon capture and storage projects were a
“real opportunity for Canada to export solutions”
and made her support absolutely clear saying
“So when you have carbon capture and storage, that’s certainly an innovative solution — a made-in-Canada solution,”
Compare those statements with her remarks at the Canada 2020 conference November 20, 2015, “And we’ll support progress in clean energy—because innovations in our energy sector can be commercialized, scaled up and exported. Done right, this will create good middle class jobs, grow our economy and reduce pollution, including greenhouse gases.”
In my blog post of May, 2015 ‘The Climate Chief, the Summit, and the Silence’ I highlighted how then Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, in a Q & A session as part of the 2nd annual Australian Emissions Reduction Summit, derailed a question on “draw down” of CO2 (presumably through agricultural soil sequestration) to speak in favour of carbon capture and storage investment. I noted the absence of responses from the commentariat. One of the few organisations to take note of the climate chief’s words was called CO2-CRC a carbon capture and storage research project which is chaired by former Australian energy and mining minister Martin Ferguson. CO2-CRC are currently pumping sequestered CO2 under the Ottway Ranges in Victoria, Australia. Another organisation to take note (they actual used a meme I created without giving credit) was SaskPower CCS, the most advanced coal-fired CCS project on the planet.
Leaders represent institutions, corporations and political processes that impact on material change in the world. Non-leaders deal with ideas and supposed facts, and in essence seek to shape thinking for the better as they are paid to conceive it. As a representative of a media institution or a non-profit entity non-leaders are compelled to steer certain talking points, and observe relationships and platforms developed and defended by their particular institution or entity. Pointing out the contradictions between rhetoric and reality is simple, but if pointing out those contradictions helps to unpack or highlight an issue then non-leaders will largely ignore the contradictions, avoid unpacking the issue, and avoid engaging in meaningful discussion. Non-leaders with significant reach and networks are pivotal to the dissemination of talking points, conflated logics, and rhetorical devices.
My messaging interrogation methodology for non-leaders goes like this: When I read a piece from a key pundit/commentator/mouthpiece working with a media entity, think tank, or NGO I look for adherence to particular talking points and conflated logics. Most authors have sets of talking points suffused with conflated logics passed on to them through the media and through their networks of allies and affiliations. My provisional assumption when reading a piece is that the author is not inclined to fully unpack an issue lest they stray into uncovering some inconvenient truths. Avoiding certain talking points signifies to me that the author would rather not give credence to those talking points. Silences are created by failing to speak to significant talking points. Silence is the hardest thing to identify and the most challenging component of messaging interrogation.
Non-leaders in the media employ what I call attending behaviour in avoiding certain talking points and triggers for unpacking inconvenient ideas and information. For the attending non-leader it’s all about speaking to an issue without really opening it up, not being utterly silent, erecting a defensible position which makes any real challenger seem petty.
Lets look at two non-leaders from the media, George Monbiot at The Guardian, and David Roberts at Grist and Vox.
Here’s a quote from a recent piece by Monbiot where he recognises the reality of increased demand for negative emissions and the role envisaged by many for CCS as a solution, then dismisses it – hyperlink to a story about last year’s cancelled 1 billion pound CCS competition in the UK.
“The only means of reconciling governments’ climate change commitments with the opening of new coal mines, oilfields and fracking sites is carbon capture and storage: extracting carbon dioxide from the exhaust gases of power stations and burying it in geological strata. But despite vast efforts to demonstrate the technology, it has not been proved at scale, and appears to be going nowhere. Our energy policies rely on vapourware.”
Reading this for the first time sent my head into a spin. Monbiot appears to be arguing that CCS would be alright if it worked. I tweeted Monbiot a bunch of memes with quotes which got the attention of the International Energy Agency, Green House Gas Research and Development Program Twitter account.
Here’s a quote from a recent piece by Roberts called ‘No country on Earth is taking the 2 degree climate target seriously’.
“What is clear is that we are betting our collective future on being able to bury millions of tons of carbon. It’s a huge and existentially risky bet — and maybe one out of a million people even know it’s being made.”
In making his assertions on the state of political will for mitigation technologies like CCS, Roberts cites an obscure UNFCCC report from the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice titled: ‘Report on the structured expert dialogue on the 2013–2015 review’ It’s one hell of a document, I could sense that the delegates were drooling over the idea of pulping forests. Roberts is right in his conclusions about political will for bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and CCS, but – here’s where the attending behaviour kicks in – including a hyperlink to a document doesn’t constitute unpacking the political will. Not when the title of your article refers to inaction from countries, and countries have politicians who are on record giving their support for carbon capture and storage investment. There are any number of documents, links, and names he could have shared that would have revealed the punchline, but he didn’t. We can’t say he didn’t attend to the subject, but we can’t say he smashed that pinata.
Roberts’ article is ostensibly a response to a report released by Oil Change International (OCI) in September this year titled THE SKY’S LIMIT: WHY THE PARIS CLIMATE GOALS REQUIRE A MANAGED DECLINE OF FOSSIL FUEL PRODUCTION. Roberts introduces the themes of “cognitive dissonance” and “psychological schism” at the state of the collective response to climate change. He then presents the OCI article stating “This cognitive dissonance is brought home yet again in a new report from Oil Change” Indeed the OCI report written with “collaborators” that you could only call “the usual suspects” (climate cartel) elicits cognitive dissonance for the sheer number of qualified statements on CCS in the context of carbon budgets. The phrase “in the absence of CCS” and other similar phrases appear on more than half a dozen occasions. The below quote summarizes the position of the world’s leading green groups on carbon capture and storage.
“If CCS is eventually proven and deployed, it might provide a welcome means of further lowering emissions.”
In the end the OCI authors cite prudence as the most important consideration.
“However, we take the view that it would not be prudent to be dependent on an uncertain technology to avoid dangerous climate change; a much safer approach is to ensure that emissions are reduced in the first place by reducing fossil fuel use and moving the economy to clean energy. Therefore, we apply that assumption throughout this report.”
My feeling about David Roberts who is a colleague of Bill McKibben at Grist.com is that his job is to postulate on the things Bill McKibben can’t (lest he be compelled to unpack). While I agree with the earlier quote and recognise that I am probably one of those “one out of a million people”, I find it concerning that David Roberts can comprehend that we are indeed “betting our collective future” on carbon capture utilization and storage, but not attend to who and what constitutes the political will. I’ve formed the opinion over time that David Roberts conforms to the same remit and talking points as Bill McKibben, and that he has permission to go as close as possible to the hard limits without triggering the unpacking of political will.
There is an endless array of non-leaders from think tanks and NGOs that we could explore, but lets look at someone who has piped up and finally given a clear message about investment in the lead up to COP22.
Nicholas Stern chairs the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment. This is the research institute/think tank that I alluded to earlier when I explained what set me off on the journey of discovery into how fossil fools are manufacturing continued demand. While I have been watching Grantham and their allies closely for the last 3 years, it was only recently that I was able to find a quote from the horse’s mouth (Stern) that was succinct enough to share. The following quote is from a speech given at The Royal Society on October 31, 2016. It’s a very telling quote because it comes from an entity that promoted and repeatedly supported the divestment movement as well as hashtags/campaigns like #keepitintheground, and yet it clearly pushes for investment in CCS as a negative emissions technology.
“What can be done to achieve negative emissions? Carbon capture and storage technology is key.”
Here it is in meme form. Feel free to share it.
Here’s a quote from The Principles of Psywar by Jay Taber. I’ve worked to these two fundamental principles since I first read them.
“The first principle of psywar is never repeat the talking points of your enemy. The second principle is to deny them a platform to misinform.”
I’ve found these principles are great for maintaining the discipline of staying on-message during difficult discussions and developing a more succinct communication style.
Applying these two principles has given me stamina and strengthened my resolve. Grunt work requires hours of immersion in deflating, boring, and propaganda riddled content. My enemies are manufacturing hope, and funding every avenue that leads to new people, cultures, and markets to co-opt. But I can be realistic about the enormity, pervasiveness, and shape of the enemy because I have a strategy against their constant destabilising tactics.
Grunt work is the true revolutionary work.
Putting up feeble resistance is a way of manufacturing silence. This is precisely what is happening this year in the US with critical pieces of legislation introduced to congress seeking to facilitate the growth of the carbon capture and storage sector with a particular interest in CO2 enhanced oil recovery (EOR). Here I will discuss two pieces of complimentary legislation that have received bipartisan support, support from industry, support from the Natural Resource Defense Council, and support from one of the largest union organisations in the US, the AFL-CIO. Both bills seek to modify provisions in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (bail out). I will show that the resistance is barely even visible. NGOs who claim to represent workers and/or the environment, organisations like the Labor Network for Sustainability have barely even acknowledged the existence of these new bills.
When Republican congressman Mike Conaway presented his bill the Carbon Capture Act in February 25, 2016 Brad Markell, Executive Director of the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Council had this to say as part of a “diverse coalition” which included Arch Coal, Peabody Coal, and Summit Power.
“CCS is absolutely critical to preserving good-paying jobs in manufacturing and industrial and energy production, while reducing the environmental footprint of these activities. The financial incentives in this legislation will also support much-needed construction jobs as we build projects and infrastructure for CCS. Representative Conaway has proposed a win-win for our economy and environment.”
Markell’s colleague D. Michael Langford, National President, Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO had this to say on the same press release.
“There are few real examples of technology that are both good for the economy and good for the environment. Carbon capture technology is one true example. Incentives to develop and deploy carbon capture will have a positive effect on our economy while at the same time, reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A permanent extension of tax credits for Section 45Q of the Tax Code will be essential in building a twenty first century economy that provides large numbers good paying jobs while addressing environmental concerns.”
I challenged Joe Uehlein, Founding President of the Labor Network for Sustainability (LN4S) and former AFL-CIO strategist to put the position of LN4S forward in response to AFL-CIO support but his response was flat, defensive, and not worth posting. It wasn’t until Democrat Senators Whitehouse and Heitkamp introduced their bill, the Carbon Capture Utilization and Storage Act, that the resistance went from virtually nothing to slightly more than nothing.
Senator Whitehouse’s press release announcing the introduction of his bill neglects to mention coal based carbon capture or CO2 based enhanced oil recovery. Instead the focus is put on non fossil fuel based processes like industrial water treatment and algae biomass projects. This is also the theme he lead with on social media as you can see from the below image.
This is when Friends of the Earth US stepped in with a letter to congress calling the 45Q tax credit amendments for which both bills were created, a CO2-EOR subsidy. The closing sentence of the letter highlights that it’s not coal based carbon capture and storage or even the storage of CO2 in old oil reservoirs that FoE US and the long list of cosignatory NGOs (photo below) are taking issue with, but the purported increase in oil that can be recovered.
“Enhancing oil recovery is not a climate solution. Neither is further subsidizing the oil industry. In fact both are a step in the wrong direction. That is why we ask you to oppose any attempts to extend or expand the Section 45Q tax credit.”
There are more than 30 co-signatory NGOs to the FoE US letter but when they went to social media it all fell flat. None of the usual cross promotional back patting and content sharing that allied NGOs are well known for happened.
There is a global group called the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) which holds forums, events and discussions for energy ministers and secretaries. Within this arrangement there is the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, this is where the real “clean energy” action happens. Below is a screen grab from the Carbon Capture Use and Storage page of the CEM website which you should have a look at. If you do you will see that details of their position on CCUS is buried away. Similar structuring-out exists in the US for the Clean Energy States Alliance which leaves the definition of “clean energy” to be determined by the vagaries of energy infrastructure development and regulation for each state.
The propagandists have effectively manufactured demand for negative emissions. Power only ever makes win-win plays. Every failure to deliver real emissions reductions creates more demand and there are legions of mouthpieces looking for good metrics, ready to pump the hopium and spell out the technofixes. The propagandists know that the biggest risk to their agenda comes from free, open, and informed discussion. A thorough and relevant discourse has never occurred for carbon capture and storage. The CCS loving Bellona Foundation (Twitter admin) all but acknowledged this to me recently.
COP22 will deliver “clean energy” finance and climate finance. The punchline to the dirty joke has been protected. Senior editors, NGO trustees, impact philanthropists, and senior bureaucrats all know how to guide inquiry away from the no go zones. They know that the worth of everyone who works under them is contingent on their ability to discern the dog whistles and self censor.
While nations struggle to implement carbon taxes and emissions trading schemes new CCS projects have developed that when the time comes will be able to demonstrate that they have the capability to sequester carbon at scale. Australian economist Allan Kohler theorised that the Australian Emissions Reduction Fund, Safeguard Mechanism could represent a “proxy ETS”. It could come to pass that the Gorgon Gas Project which began sequestering CO2 under Barrow Island off the coast of Western Australia this year could retrospectively claim a subsidy for their efforts. Will Australia in the near future use this sequestered carbon to satisfy their climate commitments?
The city of Rotterdam has put itself forward as a future CO2 export hub and the Teesside Collective industrial decarbonisation project still claim they are “leading the way in low carbon technologies”. Remi Erikson, CEO of DNV GL clearly thinks that a North Sea CO2 storage hub is bankable.
Another meme to share.
Storage capacity for CO2 has been successfully commodified before any kind of discussion about the international agreements that are meant to cover activities like undersea storage have even happened. The London Protocol and Convention which is administered by the International Maritime Organisation is not ready to manage the development of undersea storage, and the maritime area managed by OSPAR Commission north of the Atlantic has permitted under sea storage in the North Sea at Norway’s Sleipner field. OSPAR are very supportive of investment in carbon capture and storage. Here’s a quote from the Quality Status Report 2010.
“Capturing carbon from combustion at source and transporting this to sub-seabed geological reservoirs could help mitigate climate change over century-long time scales and thus help with the transition to a lower carbon economy.”
I tried to find the source for the proliferation of “clean energy” as a pivotal propaganda term. Looking at the list of attendees at the 2009 Getting to 350 conference was very enlightening. Lewis Milford who heads up the Clean Energy States Alliance was there as was James Hansen who advocates nuclear over renewables. Members of Al Gore’s Climate Project were there along with ecological economist Bob Costanza and the nuclear and carbon capture spruiking Jesse Jenkins.
I found the likely source of “clean energy” by digging into the Podesta emails and following the trail back to 2006 and the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting (link has already disappeared) where Podesta was championing the “Clean Energy Investment Boom”. The Clinton Global Initiative had a key role in bringing 350.org to global prominence. Podesta recently sat down with US Energy Secretary , Ernest Moniz and I’ll let the meme tell you what they both agreed on.
New US president? Makes little difference. There was no ‘war on coal’. The clean power plan was never clean. “Clean Energy” has paved the way for the financing of carbon capture utilization and storage as critical to the development of our energy systems, and fundamental to the decarbonisation of industry.
Let’s give Al Gore the last word $$$$$$$$$