When thinking about fossil fuel phase-outs: The key word is ‘unabated’

*This textual analysis is a follow up to my op-ed for Off-Guardian in November 2021. It’s a long read, but you will see how the realities I pointed out in during COP 26 were papered over through management of language in the intervening months.

Qualifying language makes a statement less certain. Any leader who says that they want to “phase out fossil fuels” will receive applause from climate warriors and have their message amplified in the media. For media organs like The Guardian and the various climate activist NGOs and think tanks, applause is all that matters. When conforming to particular attention-metrics yielding narratives, climate warriors and their stenographer friends in the media will ignore crucial qualifying language.

The word ‘unabated’ is the preeminent qualifier applied to language relating to phasing out fossil fuels under net zero modelling and commitments. Its application makes statements and commitments less certain by assigning them to one category of fossil fuels – those with CO2 abatement applied. When stenographers and narrative slaves choose not to attend to the uncertainty caused by the qualifier ‘unabated’, they are choosing to misinform the people.

The qualifier

The think tank E3G put out a good explainer on the meaning of ‘unabated’ ahead of COP26 in June 2021. In essence ‘unabated’ means: without some form of carbon capture and storage applied.

In May and June 2021, the term featured prominently in the IEA’s Net Zero Energy report and the official communiques from meetings of G7 Ministers and Leaders.

[SOURCE]

The term appears 52 times in the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report. In the Summary for Policy Makers – ‘Priority Action’ section, a call is made for a “massive clean energy expansion”.

Policies should limit or provide disincentives for the use of certain fuels and technologies, such as unabated coal‐fired power stations, gas boilers and conventional internal combustion engine vehicles.

[SOURCE]

Ignoring the qualifier

There are any number of examples of stenographers and pundits ignoring the qualifying term in question. Fiona Harvey ignored the ‘unabated’ qualifier when the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report was released in May 2021.

No new oil, gas or coal development if world is to reach net zero by 2050, says world energy body: Governments must close gap between net zero rhetoric and reality, says International Energy Agency head

When discussing Fatih Birol’s position on new technology, Harvey underplays the scope of CCS technology in development. The role projected for biomass as a feed stock and fossil hydrogen production at new decarbonisation hubs in Europe should be explored. The decarbonisation hubs planned around the Alberta Carbon Trunk Line should be considered when claims that CCS has not been proven ‘at scale’ are made. Blue ammonia import deals being hammered out in Asia should be analysed and the oil and gas giants like Saudi Aramco and Woodside making those deals should be investigated. The new CO2 pipelines proposed for Iowa, North Dakota, Illinois, Nebraska and Wyoming should be explained in terms of the political will and long term legislative efforts behind their development.

The crucial new technologies in development are: advanced batteries, particularly for use in electric vehicles; hydrogen; and carbon capture.

[SOURCE]

Damian Carrington provided a classic example of misrepresentation through silence in September 2021.

In May, an IEA report concluded that there could be no new oil, gas or coal development if the world was to reach net zero by 2050.

[SOURCE]

The Executive Director of the IEA, Fatih Birol used the ‘unabated’ qualifier in a session on ‘Navigating the Energy Transition’ at Davos Agenda in January 2022. He wasn’t ignoring the qualifier, but rather he was forefronting energy efficiency. His comments were largely ignored.

Either we continue to use unabated fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – and live with climate change, much more frequent extreme weather events, or we change the way we produce and consume energy.

[SOURCE]

The recent ‘carbon bombs’ series at The Guardian entirely avoided the crucial qualifier and reasserted the unqualified claim made a year earlier.

The IEA advised almost exactly a year ago that no new gas, oil or coal development could take place from this year onwards if the world was to limit global heating to 1.5C.

The Guardian seem to be keen to avoid mention of the over-reliance on CCS in modelling and phase out-out commitments. In order to make the ‘carbon bombs’ argument they need to frame out the political will for CCS and the state of its development. In their 13 May 2022 article they included a picture of the Saudi Aramco, Hawiyah NGL gas plant which deploys CCS and pipes the produced CO2 to an enhanced oil recovery project. They did not mention that the Hawiyah NGL plant was a CCS facility. Surely a gas CCS plant is not a prime example of a carbon bomb?

[SOURCE]

The 195 projects listed in The Guardian ‘carbon bombs’ series were identified in the study titled ‘“Carbon Bombs” – Mapping key fossil fuel projects’. The study which was revised in February 2022 makes no specific mention of “unabated” fossil fuels, biomass or CCS, but it does contain an assertion that completely negates the existence of the ‘unabated’ qualifier and the stated strategies for deploying large scale CCS outlined in the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report.

The recent IEA roadmap for net zero by 2050 which arrived at the conclusion that no new oil and gas fields nor coal mines are needed (Bouckaert et al., 2021) aligns well with the argument

[SOURCE]

The IEA Net Zero by 2050 report uses the ‘unabated’ qualifier liberally, but it also spells out clearly the infrastructure needed for large scale CCS.

And the required roll‐out of hydrogen and CCUS after 2030 means laying the groundwork now: annual investment in CO2 pipelines and hydrogen-enabling infrastructure increases from USD 1 billion today to around USD 40 billion in 2030.

Fossil Fuel Treaty, an organisation spearheaded by Tzeporah Berman made a subtle acknowledgment that the IEA modelling allows future opportunities for CCS in their May 2021 media release. In doing so they contradicted their headline. They also made no mention of the crucial qualifier.

Headline:

New IEA scenario finds fossil fuel expansion is needless and incompatible with 1.5°C

Subtle acknowledgement:

At the same time, the IEA net zero report ignores the imperative of winding down oil, gas and coal production.

[SOURCE]

In an April 2022 media release Fossil Fuel Treaty selectively quoted the IPCC Working Group 3 on mitigation AR6 contribution, and provided a misleading headline. The term ‘unabated’ appears 21 times in the report. Section C on ‘system transformation’ contains the quote provided by Fossil Fuel Treaty in their media release. For contrast: the text immediately following the quote that was selected by Fossil Fuel Treaty contains an explanation of how “modelled mitigation strategies” support “transitioning from fossil fuels without CCS”.

Headline:

IPCC report reaffirms urgency to phase out fossil fuels to stave off climate crisis

Carefully selected IPCC quote:

all global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot

[SOURCE]

Here’s the full quote from the ‘Working Group III Contribution
to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)’.

C.3 All global modelled pathways that limit warming to 1.5°C (>50%) with no or limited overshoot, and those that limit warming to 2°C (>67%) involve rapid and deep and in most cases immediate GHG emission reductions in all sectors. Modelled mitigation strategies to achieve these reductions include transitioning from fossil fuels without CCS to very low- or zero-carbon energy sources, such as renewables or fossil fuels with CCS, demand side measures and improving efficiency, reducing non-CO 2 emissions, and deploying carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods to counterbalance residual GHG emissions.

[SOURCE]

Oil Change International (OCI) need to be called out for their vigorous efforts at ignoring the crucial qualifier. The headline on their press release following the publication of the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report fails to reflect the space held for CCS in the future. They selectively quote the report which contains the contradictory phrase that helped facilitate misrepresentation. This can be seen in the quote provided in David Turnbull’s comment. The authors celebrated the IEA report as a “tremendous win” while simultaneously acknowledging the projected “4,000 percent increase in carbon capture and storage by 2030”. One of the authors went on to argue that the IEA is not “accelerating the phase-out of fossil gas and coal” by “banking” on CCS. This is, in effect, an admission that the IEA are promoting a phase out of ‘unabated’ fossil fuels rather than all fossil fuels as their headline and selective quoting suggests.

Headline:

IEA’s first 1.5°C-aligned scenario bolsters call for no new fossil fuel extraction

David Turbull:

Critically, the 1.5°C-aligned scenario finds “no need for investment in new fossil fuel supply.” This represents a break from past IEA reports that boosted new oil and gas development by focusing on scenarios that steered the world towards catastrophic levels of warming. As next steps towards reform, energy analysts are calling on the IEA to transform the WEO to focus on 1.5°C-aligned policies and investments and fix persistent modelling flaws. The new scenario continues to underestimate wind and solar while overselling riskier, more polluting alternatives.

Kelly Trout:

It’s huge to have the world’s most influential energy modellers bolstering the global call to stop licensing and financing new fossil fuel extraction. Governments, banks, and Big Oil and Gas companies can no longer use the IEA as a shield to claim that their support for fossil fuel expansion is consistent with the Paris Agreement. The IEA’s own modelling now shows new oil and gas fields are not compatible with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

David Tong:

Today’s report is a tremendous win for climate advocates who have been demanding that the IEA align its analysis and communications with the critical 1.5?C limit. While we applaud the IEA for taking this step, they can rest assured that advocates will continue pushing for the institution to complete the job. Gambling the climate on a 4,000 percent increase in carbon capture and storage by 2030 is extraordinarily risky and, the IEA’s own analysis shows, not necessary. Instead of banking on a consistently underperforming and still polluting technology, the IEA should be accelerating the phase-out of fossil gas and coal by relying on proven wind and solar solutions.

[SOURCE]

At the same moment that the OCI authors were ignoring the crucial qualifier, Kelly Trout was unironically pointing out the difference between the IEA headlines and their CCS gamble without ever mentioning the word ‘unabated’ or quoting one of the 52 instances in which the word appears in the IEA report. Again, the headline didn’t match the details revealled in the body.

Headline:

IEA’s First 1.5°C Climate Model Rejects New Fossil Fuel Extraction

Body:

Clinging to fossil gas. By gambling on a massive scale-up of CCS taking away some of its emissions, the IEA’s 1.5°C scenario also makes room for dangerous levels of fossil gas reliance this decade.

[SOURCE]

A year after the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report was released and 6 months on from COP 26, David Tong and Kelly Trout, along with an extensive list of NGO supporters, produced ‘Big Oil Reality Check 2022’. This time the introduction continued the misrepresentation of the IEA Net Zero by 2050 report and the World Energy Outlook 2021.

Also in 2021, the International Energy Agency (IEA) concluded that there is no room for new fossil fuel expansion beyond fields and mines already under development in its first-ever full 1.5°C-aligned scenario

Here are some quotes directly from the OCI report that reveal the real agenda.

To achieve its targets while continuing to produce fossil fuels, Shell plans to use large volumes of carbon sequestration and offsets

Equinor plans to rely heavily on CCS

ExxonMobil expressly aims to rely heavily on CCS

BP’s targets explicitly depend on CCS

Though Eni has set a 2050 “net zero” target…the company’s climate goals depend on extensive uses of CCS

TotalEnergies plans to rely significantly on technological CCS, alongside afforestation and other “nature based solutions”

The IEA’s 1.5°C scenario depends on less carbon dioxide removal than some other scenarios, but still includes a 4,000 percent increase in energy sector CCS by 2030

[SOURCE]

Last minute changes to the COP 26 draft text

On 4 November 2022, a week before the first draft text came out, The Guardian reported on the commitments lauded by the UK establishment. On that day COP 26 produced multiple statements with the word ‘unabated’ used frequently as a qualifier when discussing coal phase-outs and fossil fuel phase-outs. Again the headline misrepresented statements being cited.

Headline:

More than 40 countries agree to phase out coal-fired power

Reasserting an untruth:

The IEA has said all new development of fossil fuels must cease from this year, if the world is to stay within the 1.5C limit.

[SOURCE]

39 countries signed the ‘Statement on International Public Support for the Clean Energy Transition’.

the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and IEA net-zero analysis show that in the pathways consistent with a 1.5°C warming limit and the goals of the Paris Agreement, the global production and use of unabated fossil fuels must decrease significantly by 2030;

[SOURCE]

45 countries signed the ‘Global Coal to Clean Power Transition Statement’.

Unabated’ coal power generation is described by the G7 and the IEA as referring to the use of coal power that is not mitigated with technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, such as Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage (CCUS).

[SOURCE]

On the same day that the transition statements were released the UNFCCC put out a misleading headline that was not supported by the body of the text.

Headline:

End of Coal in Sight at COP26

Body:


At least 25 countries and public finance institutions commit to ending international public support for the
unabated fossil fuel energy sector by the end of 2022

[SOURCE]

On 10 November 2021 the first draft agreement was released. The word ‘unabated’ does not appear and the phase out commitment is specific to coal and subsidies.19.

Calls upon Parties to accelerate the phasing out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels;

[SOURCE]

On 11 November 2021 it was reported that climate advocates found the first draft to be “vague” and lacking in ambition. A new draft would need to be hammered out.

A new version of the draft agreement text is expected to be published at some point Thursday night, but COP26 President Alok Sharma made it clear the negotiations are far from over — so don’t be surprised if they continue past the deadline.

[SOURCE]

When The Guardian reported on the second and final draft on 12 November 2021 they quoted both key phase-out texts, but focused on the word “inefficient” with regard to subsidies rather than “unabated” with regard to mitigation. The headline asserts that the language has “softened”, but there’s nothing in the article to suggest that the inclusion of the word ‘unabated’ was part of that softening.

Headline:

Second Cop26 draft text: Coal phaseout remains in but some language softened

Body:

The latest draft proposal from the Cop26 chair, released soon after 7am on Friday in Glasgow, calls on countries to accelerate “the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.The addition of “inefficient” could help countries that want to retain some fuel subsidies for the poor, while removing subsidies for major fossil fuel interests. This change to the language could also provide cover for countries that want to retain subsidies, however.

The word ‘unabated’ appears 3 times in the article. 2 of those instances can be found in a quote by Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change. In the quote he sums up the concession position on CCS held by the members of the Design to Win group of philanthropies and many of the recipients of funding spearheaded by John Podesta.

The call for countries to phase-out unabated coal power and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies is very important and historic. Unabated coal power releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and all subsidies for fossil fuels are inefficient.

[SOURCE]

Item 19 in the first draft agreement became item 20 in the second and final draft. Unlike the transition commitments made a week before, the qualifier ‘unabated’ is only applied to coal power rather than to fossil fuels in general.

20. Calls upon Parties to accelerate the development, deployment and dissemination of technologies, and the adoption of policies, to transition towards low-emission energy systems, including by rapidly scaling up clean power generation and accelerating the phaseout of unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels;

[SOURCE]

In a 12 November 2021 article titled ‘COP26 cop-out on coal as fossil fuel phaseout diluted’, Helen Mountford, World Resources Institute vice-president for climate and economics identified the inclusion of the word ‘inefficient’ as a weakening point.

but the reference to “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies “does weaken that a little”.

[SOURCE]

On 13 November 2021 statements from Greenpeace International Executive Director Jennifer Morgan were published. Morgan described the outcomes from COP 26 as weak, but stated they send a “signal”. The inclusion of the word ‘unabated’ in relation to phasing out coal power suggests to me that coal extraction will only end when we have dug it all up. Does Morgan not see this?

It’s meek, it’s weak and the 1.5C goal is only just alive, but a signal has been sent that the era of coal is ending. And that matters.

Morgan, who is now Germany’s special climate envoy described the phase-out item as a “breakthrough” despite its weakness. It’s hard to tell if the inclusion of the word ‘unabated’ is the reason Morgan perceives the phase-out item as weak. Greenpeace International have provided weak resistance to CCS development, but are on record as critical of an over-reliance on CCS and offsets.

The line on phasing out unabated coal and fossil fuel subsidies is weak and compromised but its very existence is nevertheless a breakthrough, and the focus on a just transition is essential.

[SOURCE]

The contradictions of Guterres

On the night before Greta Thunberg’s big speech in New York in September 2019 the UN Secretary General’s special adviser gave an address to the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI). I don’t believe the remarks were ever meant to be made public, but a group of activists made it into the swanky event. It’s unlikely they knew the significance of the transcript they provided to the journalist Emily Atkin who was a favourite of Bill McKibben at the time. It’s unlikely that any of the activists were aware of the embargoed media release which contained an announcement of the OGCI’s massive global ‘Kickstarter’ plan to fund CCS decarbonisation hubs.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v62), quality = 82

Your industry has the assets and the expertise to demonstrate the ambition we need and to lead the way. The world needs, and is demanding, an ambitious road map to reduce the carbon intensity of your industry, and to demonstrate your commitment to align with the goals of the Paris agreement.

Robert Orr, Special Adviser to Antonio Guterres, September 22, 2019

[SOURCE]

At the completion of COP 26 Guterres gave a pre-recorded address in which he neglected to acknowledge the ‘unabated’ qualifier.

I reaffirm my conviction that we must end fossil fuels subsidies. Phase out coal.

[SOURCE]

Guterres continues to ignore the qualifier. In recent tweets Guterres has echoed the sentiments he expressed at COP 26, but not the sentiments he expressed via his assistant in that luxury New York hotel with the world’s wealthiest oil and gas executives.

17 June 2022:

For decades, the fossil fuel industry has invested in pseudo-science & public relations, with a false narrative to minimize their responsibility for climate change & undermine ambitious climate policies. They exploited the same scandalous tactics as Big Tobacco decades before.

[SOURCE]

19 June 2022:

The only true path to energy security, stable power prices, prosperity & a livable planet lies in abandoning polluting fossil fuels – especially coal – and accelerating the renewables-based energy transition. Renewables are the peace plan of the 21st century.

[SOURCE]

Why has Guterres neglected to attend to the significance of the ‘unabated’ qualifier? Is he too a narrative slave like most of the climate justice movement? It’s clear that in not attending to the qualifier he poses no threat to the OGCI.

Hoping we’ll forget

In the muddied waters of time, most of the disingenuousness, douchebaggery and outright deception will be disappeared or be forgotten. Is this what the stenographers, pundits, NGO spokespersons and leaders are hoping for? How will the narrative framers respond as many of the projects they currently ignore come to fruition? Perhaps John Podesta and the billionaire philanthropists he represents have already got a plan?

We should remember that the captains of industry always like to turn a waste product into a feed stock for value adding. There are numerous examples of waste products being used as fillers, and there are celebrated examples of companies transforming their waste products into cost lowering and even profitable revenue streams. CO2 has, for decades, been viewed by the fossil fuel industry as a waste product that could be transformed into a valuable feed stock. This is precisely what is being deployed by virtually every major fossil fuel company on the planet. Is it conceivable that the oldest and wealthiest pillar of industrial globalist power could contrive to use philanthropy and every other covert means available to shape and compromise the resistance to their efforts? It certainly is!

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Locating the Kawasaki Hydrogen Liquefaction and Export Facility

You are here_Kawasaki
The Kawasaki site is on Long island Point, Hastings, Victoria

On my recent visit to Melbourne by bus and train I made a trip down to Hastings on the Mornington Peninsula to see if I could find the building site for the hydrogen  liquefaction facility designed to support Victoria’s Hydrogen Energy Supply Chain (HESC) pilot project. A friend who lives locally came along with me on the Frankston train, we had planned to get a connecting bus onto Hastings, but my friend convinced me that we should get a car-share in Mordialloc and make the rest of the journey that way.

Reports in the media described the Kawasaki Heavy Industries facility as being built at the “Port of Hastings”. Our objective was to find the specific location, a street address, a map reference or both. We were confident we were on the right track shortly after exiting the Western Port Highway when we found pipeline markers running parallel to Frankston-Flinders Rd on our left as we headed south. We were even more confident when we saw the first of the Esso petroleum storage tanks to our left. We took a left turn where a rail spur crossed the road and another left onto Bayview Road. Where Bayview Road meets Long Island Drive we found the Kawasaki pilot site.

GC_front gate_photo_2020-03-18_13-28-58
The corner of Bayview Road and Long Island Drive

The pilot site location is more accurately described as being on Long Island Point, Hastings. The area was clearly established as an industrial export site long ago. Two Esso storage/export facilities are situated near two Bluescope Steel facilities. Both are serviced by rail spurs and, it should be assumed, pipeline infrastructure. We found some key information on public displays at the Hastings pier where the fishers moor their boats.

photo_2020-03-12_18-46-58

While we were in Hastings we picked up a copy of the Western Port News which was running a story by Keith Platt on the new Kawasaki facility and the resistance coming on the back of the ‘climate emergency’ declared by the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council in August 2019. The Western Port Shire Council (WPSC) have commissioned a report on the Kawasaki Heavy Industries and Hydrogen Engineering Australia project and a proposed container port. The report will likely be released sometime in April this year.

photo_2020-03-12_18-47-09
Western Port News, March 3

The HESC project has a 500 million price tag and includes the development of potential geological storage of CO2 sequestered from the Loy Yang brown coal to hydrogen facility in the Latrobe Valley near Traralgon. The WPSC may find itself up against the might of the Victorian and Australian governments in contesting the Kawasaki facility going beyond the pilot phase.

GC_satelite view_cropped_photo_2020-03-18_13-30-32
An aerial view of the Kawasaki site

The CarbonNet CO2 storage project has been provided 150 million by the Victorian and federal governments so far. The HESC proponents downplay the sequestration component that would transform the hydrogen exported by Kawasaki Heavy Industries projects into “clean” or “blue” hydrogen. It is likely that the Loy Yang pilot will not immediately sequester the CO2 produced in the process of producing hydrogen from brown coal which is precisely what happened at the Gorgon Gas Project on Barrow Island off the Pilbara coast.

gippsland-basin.png
Activist Peter Gardner is an activist, writer and Gippsland local who provided a warning with this map in 2017.

http://petergardner.info/2017/01/ccs-rumblings-in-gippsland/

Ninety Mile Against Carbon Storage (NMACS) is a grass roots group based in Gippsland that has been campaigning against the CarbonNet project. In their project briefing they start by providing some important context about the 2 billion in federal funding for carbon capture and storage going back to 2009.

When the Carbon Capture and Storage Flagships Program was established in 2009 by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd it was a means of securing a low-emissions future for coal by supporting the construction and demonstration of large-scale integrated CCS projects in Australia.

https://www.ninetymileagainstcarbonstorage.org.au/carbonnet-project/

NMACS point out that the CarbonNet project is one of the survivors of the CCS Flagships program and is heavily supported by the state and federal governments.

CarbonNet-focas-areas
A map of CarbonNet focus areas from the NMACS website

Supporting grass roots groups is of vital importance right now. The political will evidenced by the involvement of the Australian, Victorian and Japanese government in support of corporate interests in both Australia and Japan shows that grass roots groups are heavily out gunned. They are fighting plans that have been developed since at least 2009 when former federal energy minister Martin Ferguson attended the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum hosted under the banner of the International Energy Agency’s, Clean Energy Ministerial process.

GC_map reference_cropped_photo_2020-03-18_13-29-51
Map reference for the Kawasaki Heavy Industries site

The Western Port Peninsula Protection Council and the Preserve Western Port Action Group have expressed concerns about possible dredging and climate impacts from fossil hydrogen production preceding any CO2 sequestration.

Notes from the Fossil Frontlines Tour Westernport Bay

https://www.wppcinc.org/port-of-hastings-kawasaki.html

Unwelcome – Brown Coal based Hydrogen project – Hastings

http://www.preservewesternport.org.au/news/2018/5/18/unwelcome-brown-coal-based-hydrogen-project-crib-point

There is still much to be unpacked about how the HESC project came to be. Very little information is available from the bigger environmental organisations and their networks into think tanks and the media. This is consistent with the general absence of intelligence and analysis coming from the big environmental organisations in regard to CCS projects. The HESC website provides some key information including an FAQs page.

Hastings Planning Scheme Amendment confirmed

https://hydrogenenergysupplychain.com/hastings-planning-scheme-amendment-confirmed/

screenshot.1354
A screen shot from the HESC FAQs page

https://hydrogenenergysupplychain.com/faqs/

Lastly, a piece called ‘Does writing books still matter in an era of environmental catastrophe?’ by Briohny Doyle gives a little context to the situation in Gippsland. It is perhaps the most widely read piece of writing to actually attend to the issue of CCS plans for the HESC project.

Heath_landscape_photo_2020-03-12_18-47-39
A field nearby the kawasaki site

The rig off Paradise Beach is an experimental driller for “Carbon Net”, a carbon capture and storage project capable of processing a promotional video extols, “the equivalent of CO2 emissions from around one million cars every year that it operates”. The comparison is misleading however, as Carbon Net will not capture emissions from the air but from high polluting industrial sites in the Latrobe Valley, piping them seaward to inject into layers of sandstone deep in Bass Strait.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/feb/07/does-writing-books-still-matter-in-an-era-of-environmental-catastrophe

Podesta’s Aussie Players: Why the climate movement misunderstands “clean energy”

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!”

https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/13538

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;”

https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/emailid/18938

 

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.

“Clean Energy” is a Dirty Joke

“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.

cleanenergy_dirtyjoke_main_small

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.

LEADERS – Politicians, corporate executives, high level public servants and UN chiefs

 

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”.

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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.”

.catherine_mckenna_ccs_small

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.

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NON-LEADERS – Journalists, NGO and think tank spokespeople, celebrity spokespeople

 

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.

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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.

stern_ccs_small

GRUNT WORK

 

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.

FEEBLE RESISTANCE

 

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.

sen-whitehouse-lays-bs-out

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.”

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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.

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INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE AND NETWORKED STRUCTURES

 

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.

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DEMAND FOR NEGATIVE EMISSIONS TECHNOLOGY

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.

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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.

MITIGATION TRADING

 

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.

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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.”

 

THE SHOW WILL GO ON

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.

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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 $$$$$$$$$

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Metrics as a Proxy for Social Change: The Climate Cartel, Impact Funding, and the Abandonment of Struggle

Below is an Op Ed I wrote for Wrong Kind of Green on the eve of last year’s Paris meeting. The ideas in this piece are central to my critical analysis and while I normally prioritise pointing out the silence I realise these ideas need to be here.

Reblogged from Wrong Kind of Green

Metrics as a proxy for social change. That’s what the climate cartel trades in. What do metrics mean to the cartel? Funding. Impact philanthropy demands short time frames for outcomes and metrics to show what has happened in the messaging sphere. It’s an economy of attention aimed at behaviour change, false consciousness, and the enfeeblement of intellect. Money speaks most loudly in the messaging sphere. The struggle for peace, for an end to imperialism and the patriarchy, for true protection of the earth? These struggles, none of which can be abandoned, don’t optimise metrics or please the funder’s networks.

Yes. The climate cartel trades in metrics and messaging, and in the business of attention metrics amplification is the driver of innovation. But it is innovation within the constraints, party lines, omissions, and debilitating conflated logics passed down from the funders and their networks. The ambitious and self censoring go-getter devotes their intuition, their deeper senses to navigating their way to success, a success defined by the satisfaction of amplification lust. They give themselves to an horrendous discipline honed at the behest of the funders, their networks, and their many projects.

The Non Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC) incubates a constantly expanding web of think tanks, institutes, NGOs, public thinkers, B corporations and media organs that serve to buttress the climate cartel’s messaging. They do much of this with silence, lines of inquiry best left alone, language that need not be unpacked lest some pointed questions get asked in the wrong places. They are blessed with amplification, access to the messaging sphere, and the certainty of support from allies within the NPIC including the liberal media.

Clean energy? This term is a euphemism happily embraced by the climate cartel and the liberal media. It’s used to mask the fact that ‘clean energy’ is an all-of-the-above strategy as long as some abatement/offsetting is involved.

100% renewable energy.? While this is a popular catch cry promoted by the climate cartel and their associated social movements, it comes with limited articulation of the obstacles that need to be surpassed to achieve it. The climate cartel maintain a firm silence on the greatest threat to achieving 100% renewable energy, the embedding of carbon capture and storage as a mitigation strategy within the modelling and assumptions on which our carbon budgets are based. This is a particularly diabolical manipulation that has everyone including governments and fossil fuel corporations working towards a massive explosion in new industrial and energy generating fossil fuel plants supplying CO2 for industry and undersea storage.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, Stranded Assets Project, Carbon Tracker Initiative, and the Grantham Institute have all done their part to create a picture of a coal industry in structural decline, at risk of collapsing , and incapable of existing within our carbon budgets. Through their messaging they intimate that political will should see governments rejecting coal fired energy generation, but the reality is that they’ve done more than anyone to help develop a future for fossil fuels. The Grantham Institute is particularly important as it has developed and quietly disseminated plans for carbon capture and storage in the UK and Europe with their ‘Bridging the Gap’ report. While, the climate cartel lauded Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Institute for their ‘Unburnable Carbon’ report which established the idea of carbon budgets embraced by UN climate negotiators and fossil fuel industry leaders alike, they’ve stayed silent about the Grantham Institute’s material support for the ambitions of Shell and their plans for new gas plants and North Sea CO2 storage.

Unabated coal? There is a clear party line which is understood by the mainstream and liberal media along with the think tanks and NGO mouthpieces. It is aimed at masking the energy directions embedded in the modelling assumptions behind our carbon budgets – never unpack the political will for carbon capture and storage. UK Energy Secretary Amber Rudd’s recent speech on a “new direction” for UK energy policy specified a commitment to phasing out “unabated coal”, yet the media interpreted this as a commitment to a complete coal phase out. My questions to key pundits and mouth pieces about why the word “unabated” was excluded from headlines and escaped examination were left unanswered. Some perfectly valid questions. Why did Amber Rudd specify unabated coal? Why did Chancellor George Osborne, just a week later, drop funding for carbon capture and storage in favour of nuclear power? The answer to both questions is that pushing hard with objectionable nuclear power helps manufacture consent for the negative emissions technologies that will keep fossil fuel interests happy. The classic neo-liberal push. Calling for ‘clean coal’ suddenly looks a lot more reasonable.

The structure and organisation of the climate cartel can be compared to a toadstool. 350.org is the cap of the fruiting body, very visible, poisonous, and laden with spores, This Changes Everything (TCE); book, social movement, and documentary form the stalk expanding and reinforcing key messages, and TckTckTck/Global Call for Climate Action (GCCA) – a coalition of 20 key international organisations including Avaaz, WWF, and Greenpeace form the mycelium stretching vast distances and connecting to other fruiting bodies and other vast networks. The soil it has grown from is the NPIC with it’s phalanx of institutes and think tanks feigning care for the earth while plotting the future for the oligarchs..

The title of this piece derives from a talk ‘Does art change the world? Lessons from the emerging field of ‘impact producing” given by Katie McKenna the engagement lead for TCE. Her candid acknowledgements that the “foundations” did their“due diligence” in asking for proof of “social change” when considering funding, are quite telling. I am left with three key questions. How has the imperative to achieve significant and particular metrics shaped the project? Who stands to benefit from reducing centuries of struggle down to the imperative to reduce CO2 emissions?

Links:

Amber Rudd’s speech on a new direction for UK energy policy

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/amber-rudds-speech-on-a-new-direction-for-uk-energy-policy

TckTckTck: The Bitch is Back

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/11/28/tcktcktck-the-bitch-is-back/

Financing “The Message” Behind Naomi Klein’s ‘This Changes Everything’ Project

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2015/10/02/financing-the-message-behind-naomi-kleins-this-changes-everything-project/

Bridging the gap: improving the economic and policy framework for carbon capture and storage in the European Union

http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/publication/bridging-the-gap-improving-the-economic-and-policy-framework-for-carbon-capture-and-storage-in-the-european-union/

Unburnable Carbon

http://carbontracker.live.kiln.it/Unburnable-Carbon-2-Web-Version.pdf

We Suspect Silence. Nobody gets paid to look at this stuff: Selling Us the Poison and the Remedy

https://wesuspectsilence.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/nobody-gets-paid-to-look-at-this-stuff-selling-us-the-poison-and-the-remedy/

UK to close all coal power plants in switch to gas and nuclear

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/18/energy-policy-shift-climate-change-amber-rudd-backburner

Nobody gets paid to look at this stuff: Selling Us the Poison and the Remedy

As long as the environmental movement stay silent or deny the new risks being created by any advance in carbon capture and storage, the bad guys win.

Pinchbeck Teesside
Emma Pinchbeck, Head of Climate Change and Energy at WWF-UK at the launch of the Teesside Collective, July 2015.

Look at that, a high-profile BigGreen spokesperson posing with captains of industry and welcoming the UK’s great hope for decarbonisation. The Teesside Collective ‘industrial cluster’ requires a pipeline leading to another pipeline owned by the oil and gas companies that own the CO2 storage locations under the North Sea.

Emma Pinchbeck from WWF-UK has managed to stay silent on the risks of storage and continued mining as did Simon Bowens from FoE-UK who welcomed the announcement of the Teesside Collective citing the need to “decarbonise” industry faster. Dustin Benton from the Green Alliance defends industrial decarbonisation against any criticism including the incalculable devastation from failed CO2 storage. Chris Littlecott from E3G played dumb.

“CO2 storage =/= nightmare” Dustin Benton, Green Alliance

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Try this link for my original conversation with Dustin Benton: https://twitter.com/dustin_benton/status/648412166912143360

In the last few months I’ve continued interrogating the messaging around carbon capture and storage, and I’ve been putting out more content of my own showing the advancing political will. I’ve had the occasional conversation with BigGreen folk of varying stripes and as you can see I’ve tried to capture those conversations with screen grabs.

A notable example is Anthony Hobley, CEO of the Carbon Tracker Initiative who couldn’t help but comment in response to my questions about their relationship with the Grantham Institute and it’s Bridging the Gap report from June 2015. His response shows that a massive commitment to carbon capture and storage is a foundational assumption underpinning our carbon budgets whose legitimacy even big oil and gas CEOs are publicly acknowledging.

“in our 2013 Un-Burnable Carbon Report we take the IEAs idealised scenario for CCS. That is approximately 3800 CCS plants operating by 2050. This gives you 125GtCO2. This extends the 2ºC carbon budget by 12 to 14%. Basically buys you 14 years. It is far from a magic bullet.” Anthony Hobley, CEO Carbon Tracker Initiative

Hobley Chat 1
You can find Anthony Hobley’s original comments here: https://youtu.be/hzOnTKHopS4

The first CCS meme quoting a leader of any kind but not created by me appeared in August and was shared on Twitter by a range of CCS power plants, institutes/thinktanks and pundits. It confirms for me the primacy of IEA/Grantham/Potsdam Institute modeling in our carbon budgets. Third Way who created the meme were very happy with Obama’s ‘Clean Power Plan’.

No created by me.
No created by me.

In the memes below you can see explicit support for carbon capture and storage from the CEOs of some of the world’s most powerful fossil fuel companies.

Ben van Beurden_meme_CCS_small

GregBoyce_meme_CCS_small

AndrewMackenzie_meme_CCS_small

All three leading parties contesting the UK election in May 2015 had a commitment to carbon capture and storage in their manifestos while the Greens were mostly silent. Immediately after the election Ed Davey’s successor the new energy and climate secretary Amber Rudd was on the front foot. Current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is in favour of CCS.

.   Old_Logo_Labour_Party_meme_CCS_small

Amber Rudd_CCS_small

Let’s get back to that Bridging the Gap report by the Grantham Institute. This is where the silence is deafening. I can find no one who will speak to it. It clearly favours gas CCS like Shell are planning at Peterhead with North Sea pipelines and storage as given.  The report says bio CCS or BECCS (imported wood pellets burned in place of coal) “should be a priority area of research”. Note: Shell has even raised the idea of a deep water port for imported CO2.

The Grantham Institute helped the Carbon Tracker Initiative develop ‘Unburnable Carbon’ back in 2013 with the help of the International Energy Agency and the Potsdam Institute. This established the language of carbon budgets and bubbles that is used by everyone from climate ‘justice’ activists to corporate CEOs. It’s a language that reflects nothing of the assumptions that underpin it.

It’s extremely disturbing that these two projects which both have a close connections to the London School of Economics have assigned the world its carbon budgets while simultaneously smoothing the path for a transformation of fossil fuel use. While the elite climate campaigners worked closely with the Guardian to popularise #keepitintheground Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Institute were working to ensure the opposite. Those elite climate campaigners rarely, if ever, speak about CCS, BECCS, undersea storage, or pipelines accept to say CCS is unfeasible and anyway fossil fuels are on their way out.

“We will never reach negative emissions without CCS” Anonymous former IPCC Carbon Accountant

Nobody gets paid to look at this stuff. Everyone who knows their compartment knows not ask about risk or evidence or political will. Seems it’s safer to be silent….and it pays better.