Monday, December 3, 2012

Who won?

Greetings peaksters

      The election may have import for many issues.  But when it comes to energy and  climate change there was one clear winner -
  The Oil Companies!  The Coal Companies!     They made sure that Climate Change was not an issue, not even mentioned!   

Here's what  NASA scientist James Hansen says:

"Neither party wants to offend the fossil fuel industry. They want to win the election. And they know the power of the fossil fuel industry. You can’t turn on your television without seeing these advertisements about clean coal, clean tar sands, and the claim that there’s more jobs associated with fossil fuels than with other energies. That’s of course not true, but they’re hammering that into the voters heads.

And so if anyone challenges the fossil fuel industry, they know they’re going to lose the money that they get from the fossil fuel industry. And secondly, they’re going to have the fossil fuel industry against them in the election....

... The politicians are not willing to say that we cannot burn all the fossil fuels without guaranteeing a different planet — and cheating our children.


What does Obama's victory mean for action on global warming?

A second term frees the President to end his climate change silence and perhaps spur on a global deal, but he still needs to win Republican support on Capitol Hill
What does a second term for Barack Obama as US president mean for action on climate change? The short answer is that some action is now at least conceivable. It would not have been under Mitt Romney, whose statement that the president's job was not to stop the sea rising was hideously exposed by the inundation of New York and New Jersey by the surge of superstorm Sandy.
So far, so good. But what action can we expect from Obama, at home and abroad? First, the good omens. Climate change was cited in his victory speech, albeit among 2000 other words: "We want our children to live in an America that isn't burdened by debt, that isn't weakened by inequality, that isn't threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet."
A second-term President is unencumbered by the need to seek re-election, meaning - in theory - he is free to be bold. Furthermore, it is a clear advantage to have a president who understands the threat climate change leading the world's biggest historical polluter in the make-or-break year of 2015. That is when the globe's nations must finally hammer out an international deal to combat global warming. If, as some rumours suggest,John Kerry will be his new secretary of state, then he will have an able and motivated ally in clinching an agreement to cut carbon emissions.
Domestically, the good omens are that Obama is well placed to continue his drive to control greenhouse gas emissions through the Environmental Protection Agency, support low-carbon energy and to push through better regulation for the shale gas exploitation which has made the US the world's biggest gas producer.
However, the bad omens are substantial. In 2009, Obama decided climate change was not a winning issue for him and a climate silence descended. He no longer needs to win the White House, but he has to win many other battles, not least reducing the US's stupendous debt and its high unemployment rate.
With the House of Representatives in Republican hands, pushing through any legislation will require bi-partisan support. Remember, Obama'scarbon cap and trade bill died on Capitol Hill. There must be a real risk that action on climate change becomes a bargaining chip that Obama trades for GOP support on economic issues, particularly given the widespread judgement that he has spectacularly failed to win over opponents in the past.
Another poor omen is that the power of money in US politics remains unchallenged. The vast sums thrown at politicians at every level by the vested interests in the fossil fuel industry will continue to block progress. And what happens domestically directly influences what happens in the rest of the world.
International efforts to tackle climate change have fallen so far due to a lack of trust on all sides: why should we cut our emissions if we're not sure you are going to do the same? The way to build that trust is by showing action on the ground at home. A US carbon tax has been talked about as an alternative to the cap-and-trade bill, but there seems next to no prospect of this overcoming Republican opposition.
Obama's re-election means he can end his climate silence and continue his bits-and-pieces approach to tackling American emissions. But he probably needs to bring more than that to the international negotiating table if the US is to galvanise the slow struggle towards a global deal. To me, the odds on him doing that seem low. Perhaps, chillingly, it will take more searing heatwaves and superstorms to strike to prompt Obama into serious action. But low odds are better than no odds, and that's what a President Romney would have meant.

Lingering high oil and gasoline prices contributed to another quarter of huge profits for the big five oil companies: BP plc, Chevron Corp, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil Corp, and the Royal Dutch Shell Group. They earned a combined $28 billion in the third quarter of 2012, reaping more than $90 billion in profits through the first three quarters of the year. (see Table 1) As they did last year, the “big five” are on track to easily exceed $100 billion in profits this year.
What makes this figure all the more staggering is that these companies actually produced less oil in 2012 compared to 2011. The big five oil companies’ total oil production in the third quarter was 5 percent—or 400,000 barrels per day—lower than in the third quarter of 2011.
And despite such impressive profits, U.S. taxpayers are still subsidizing these companies. In 2012 the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that these big five oil companies would receive $2.4 billion in special tax breaks. The three U.S. oil companies among this cohort—Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil—also pay a relatively low effective federal tax rate. Reuters reports that in 2011 these three companies paid 19 percent, 18 percent, and 13 percent effective federal tax rate, respectively. These oil companies’ tax rates, Reuters concluded, are “a far cry from the 35 percent top corporate tax rate.”
So what benefits do these profits produce? Do they create new jobs, as those advocating for the tax breaks and lower corporate tax rates would lead us to believe? Not exactly. Between 2005 and 2010—the last year for which data is available—the “big five” reduced their workforce by 11,200 employees, according to a report by the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee. And the profits certainly haven’t been used as a buffer to lower gas prices, which arestill hovering around $3.50, according to the American Automobile Association. Instead, the companies used these enormous profits on some other activities.
For starters, these companies continue to use massive profits to enrich their top executives and largest shareholders by repurchasing their own stock. The big five oil companies spent nearly one-quarter of their third-quarter profits buying back their own stock. These companies are also sitting on $70.7 billion in cash reserves—money not invested in searching for new sources of energy.
But the “big five” did spend lots of money on Capitol Hill in 2012, investing heavily to protect their special tax breaks. Since 2011 they have spent more than $100 million lobbying Congress to protect low tax rates and block pollution controls and safeguards for public health.
In addition to lobbying Congress, the big five oil companies have directly contributed $6.7 million to federal candidates and political parties with 78 percent going to Republicans and 22 percent to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
We also know that these companies have been funneling money into super PACs and political advocacy organizations to broadcast ads that oppose President Obama and his clean energy agenda and promote the companies’ tax breaks. Last month, for example, Chevron made the single-largest corporate donation since the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for corporate money in elections in its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. The company invested $2.5 million in the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC for House Republicans.
This relatively modest investment in lobbying, elections, and politics by oil companies has paid off handsomely. In addition to maintaining their special tax breaks, the FY 2013 budget passed by the house would provide an additional new tax cut of more than $2 billion annually for these same companies in the fiscal year beginning this past October. Overall, the House of Representatives voted 109 times this Congress to enrich oil companies, according to a study by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Ed Markey (D-MA). This is a return on investment that would make Donald Trump jealous.
If the story of huge profits, stock buybacks, cash reserves, lobbying, and campaign dollars by big oil companies sounds familiar, that’s because it is. The “big five” rake in billions of dollars due to high oil and gasoline prices, all while receiving special tax breaks and producing less oil. It’s a story that will be rebroadcast again and again until Congress begins to reform this industry, starting with ending their $2.4 billion in special tax breaks.
Download full data on Big Oil’s profits and activities in the third quarter of 2012 (.xls)
Daniel J. Weiss is a Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progress. Jackie Weidman is a Special Assistant for Energy Opportunity at the Center



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