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CSEC Headquarters’ $1.2-Billion Price Tag Has Activists Outraged

CSEC Headquarters’ $1.2-Billion Price Tag Has Activists Outraged.

CSEC

When the Harper government tables its latest budget Tuesday afternoon, it will include continued funding for a massive, opulent new headquarters for Canada’s electronic spy agency, CSEC.

The $1.2-billion building on Ottawa’s east side — dubbed the “spy palace” by critics and believed to be the most expensive government building ever constructed in Canada — has become a rallying point for activists protesting in the wake of allegations that CSEC has been spying on Canadians, in contravention of its mandate and possibly Canadian law.

More than 45 organizations, including OpenMedia, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Greenpeace and several unions, are launching a campaign Tuesday “to tell MPs to stop wasting billions on Canada’s expensive online spying apparatus,” according to a statement from OpenMedia.

It’s part of a multinational event, dubbed “The Day We Fight Back,” meant to launch a new, ongoing campaign to bring government surveillance under control.

In the U.S., the campaign will focus on revelations that the National Security Agency has been involved in mass, warrantless surveillance of Americans’ phone and internet activities.

In CSEC’s new headquarters, the Canadian activist groups see a potent symbol of the growth of the surveillance state in recent years.

We now have this dramatic, visual point of reference for CSEC — this grand piece of architecture rising in the east end — at a time when surveillance is becoming more and more of an issue,” Ian MacLeod, an Ottawa Citizen reporter who covers national security issues, explained to CBC Radio last fall.

Government estimates place the official cost of the new CSEC headquarters at $867 million, but according to a CBC investigation last fall, the building’s final cost will be closer to $1.2 billion. And when the $3-billion contract to operate the building for 20 years is added, the new HQ’s cost soars past $4 billion.

As the CBC noted, the building has more floor space than Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, and cost enough to build “several” large hospitals. It will house about 2,000 CSEC employees.

“Canadians are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on a bloated spy bureaucracy that is monitoring our private lives,” OpenMedia.ca executive director Steve Anderson said in a statement.

“It’s time for common sense to prevail. We need to rein in CSEC and other security agencies before they get even more out of control. That’s why we’re calling on MPs to make a firm commitment to introduce pro-privacy legislation to protect the privacy of all residents of Canada.”

Documents from Edward Snowden’s trove of NSA data indicate that CSEC spied on Canadian travelers through WiFi hot spots at a major airport. The Harper government denies that the privacy of Canadians was invaded in the experiment, but privacy experts say the metadata collected by the CSEC would have exposed a great deal of private information about the targeted individuals.

The CSEC headquarters is being developed by Plenary Group Canada, an infrastructure company that specializes in government projects. The building is expected to be completed this year. Plenary Group boasts of the building’s innovative green technologies.

Walls of windows fill the facility with natural light and reduce the building’s electricity consumption and rainwater collection ponds reduce the facility’s consumption of water for irrigation,” the company’s fact sheet reads.

In an interview with CBC, former CSEC head John Adams admitted the building didn’t need to be an “architectural wonder.”

“But, you know, glass in this [CBC] building is the same price as glass in that [CSEC] building,” he said. “That building is just going to look an awful lot better than this building … That facility is going to be quite magnificent.”

Is it worth $1.2 billion to build a “magnificent” headquarters for Canada’s electronic spy agency? Let us know in the comments below.

Davos delegates warned of imminent oil crisis  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards

Davos delegates warned of imminent oil crisis  |  Peak Oil News and Message Boards.

(Pic: Shell)

(Pic: Shell)

By Alex Kirby

A British businessman will tell world leaders meeting in Switzerland today that it is dangerous to argue that fracking for shale oil and gas can help to avert a global energy crisis.

Jeremy Leggett, a former Greenpeace staff member who founded a successful solar energy company, has been invited to the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos from 22 to 25 January. The theme of the meeting is The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business.

Leggett told the Climate News Network: “The WEF likes to deal in big ideas, and last year one of its ideas was to argue that the world can frack its way to prosperity. There are large numbers of would-be frackers in Davos.

“I’m a squeaky wheel within the system. I’m in Davos to put the counter-arguments to Big Energy, and I’ll tell them: ‘You’re in grave danger of repeating the mistakes of the financial services industry in pushing a hyped narrative.”

This refers to the way in which banking leaders had “their particular comforting narrative catastrophically wrong, until the proof came along in the shape of the financial crash”.

Leggett founded Solarcentury, the UK’s fastest-growing solar electric company since 2000. He also established the charity SolarAid which aims to eradicate the kerosene lamp from Africa by 2020, and chairs the Carbon Tracker Initiative.

His book Half Gone: Oil, Gas, Hot Air and the Global Energy Crisis was published in 2005, and his latest, The Energy of Nations: Risk blindness and the road to renaissance, in 2013.

‘Sunset industry’

Leggett says the conventional oil industry is facing an imminent crisis, because existing crude oil reserves are declining fast, it is having to find the money for soaring capital expenditure, and the amount of oil available for export is falling.

“Big Oil is still extremely powerful and well-capitalised”, he says, “but it is fast approaching sunset. The profitability of the big international groups – like Exxon, Shell and BP – is a real worry for investors, and they’ve been largely locked out of the easy oil controlled by national companies – just look at BP and Russia.

“Gas? Unless the price goes up, the whole US shale gas industry is in danger of becoming a bubble, even a Ponzi scheme. All but one of the biggest production regions have peaked already, and losses are piling up. This is an industry that’s in grave danger of committing financial suicide.”

A linked message that Leggett will deliver is that there is a growing danger of a carbon bubble building up in the capital markets. He says investors who think governments may agree stringent and strictly-enforced limits on greenhouse gas emissions might decide their investments in oil and gas are at risk of becoming worthless.

Crunch next year?

There is little sign yet that such limits are likely any time soon. But Leggett says that is to miss the point: “You don’t have to wait until agreement is close, or even probable. You have to believe only that there’s a realistic chance of policymaking which means assets might be stranded.”

He will also tell his audience “to take out insurance on the risk of an oil crisis, by accelerating the very things we need to deal with climate change”. Chief among these, he says, is the need to channel funds withdrawn from oil, gas, and coal into clean energy instead – though he acknowledges that, as a renewable energy entrepreneur himself, he may be accused of self-interest.

Leggett fears a world oil crisis could occur as early as 2015. And when it comes, it will certainly mean “ruinously high prices”, for a start. But it will mean something more, he says.

Last December he worked with a US national security expert, Lt-Colonel Daniel Davis, to organise the Transatlantic Energy Security Dialogue. Leggett has a regard for the views of people like Davis. “The military are better than your average politician or consultant to Big Energy at spotting systemic risk”, he says.

Leggett says military think-tanks have tended to side with those who distrust “the cornucopian narrative” of the oil industry.

One 2008 study, by the German army, says: “Psychological barriers cause indisputable facts to be blanked out and lead to almost instinctively refusing to look into this difficult subject in detail. Peak oil, however, is unavoidable.”

RTCC

EU Calls for 40% Reduction in Greenhouse-Gas Output by 2030 – Bloomberg

EU Calls for 40% Reduction in Greenhouse-Gas Output by 2030 – Bloomberg.

Photographer: HJ Morrill/Getty Images
The European Commission will today outline a strategy to cut pollution and curb rising energy costs. The region’s executive arm will call for an overhaul of the bloc’s policies in the next decade.

The European Union proposed cutting the region’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 40 percent in 2030 to accelerate efforts to reduce global warming.

The European Commission outlined its strategy to reduce pollution and curb rising energy costs and called for an overhaul of the bloc’s policies in the next decade, the EU’s executive arm said in a statement today. The current goal is to cut emissions by 20 percent in 2020 from 1990 levels.

The proposed design of future policies pits nations including Germany and the U.K., who are seeking stronger efforts to protect the atmosphere, against Poland and its allies, which rely mainly on fossil fuels to keep their economy humming. It also highlights the divide between energy intensive companies, whose gas and power costs are more than double their U.S. and Asian competitors, and green lobbies such as Greenpeace seeking deeper emission cuts.

“Political agreement on a 2030 EU energy and climate framework is absolutely vital for businesses,” Katja Hall, chief policy director at Confederation of British Industry, the U.K.’s main business lobby group, said by e-mail before the commission’s announcement. “We need long-term certainty to drive investment in a secure, low-carbon and affordable energy future for Europe.”

In the package unveiled today the commission asked member states to consider a 2030 framework that focuses on the carbon-reduction target to avoid conflicts with policies subsidizing renewable energy. The strategy is the start of a debate among member states, which may lead to a draft law in early 2015.

New Proposal

Under the new proposal, the EU wouldn’t extend legally-binding renewables targets for individual member states beyond 2020, instead setting an EU-wide goal to boost the share of renewable energy to 27 percent by 2030.

Scrapping renewable energy targets is “good news” for the economy and environment, according to Robert Stavins, director of Harvard University’s Environmental Economics Program. The renewables goal conflicts with the EU emissions trading system and removing it would lower the cost to achieve the pollution cap, he said.

The package will also include an indicative goal to boost energy efficiency by 25 percent, which will be discussed later this year.

As a part of the proposal, the commission will also seek to strengthen its carbon market cap-and-trade program by making the supply of permits more flexible. A carbon market stability reserve to start in 2021 would withdraw permits once allowances in circulation reached at least 833 million, the commission said in a statement.

The cost of emitting a metric ton of carbon dioxide in the EU’s $53 billion carbon market slumped to a record low of 2.46 euros ($3.32) in April and traded at 5.20 euros today at the ICE Futures Europe exchange in London.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ewa Krukowska in Brussels atekrukowska@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lars Paulsson at lpaulsson@bloomberg.net

Peak Oil Is Dead | Michael T. Klare

Peak Oil Is Dead | Michael T. Klare.

Long Live Peak Oil!

Cross-posted with TomDispatch.com

Among the big energy stories of 2013, “peak oil” — the once-popular notion that worldwide oil production would soon reach a maximum level and begin an irreversible decline — was thoroughly discredited.  The explosive development of shale oil and other unconventional fuels in the United States helped put it in its grave.

As the year went on, the eulogies came in fast and furious. “Today, it is probably safe to say we have slayed ‘peak oil’ once and for all, thanks to the combination of new shale oil and gas production techniques,” declared Rob Wile, an energy and economics reporter for Business Insider.  Similar comments from energy experts were commonplace, prompting an R.I.P. headline at Time.com announcing, “Peak Oil is Dead.”

Not so fast, though.  The present round of eulogies brings to mind the Mark Twain’s famous line: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”  Before obits for peak oil theory pile up too high, let’s take a careful look at these assertions.  Fortunately, theInternational Energy Agency (IEA), the Paris-based research arm of the major industrialized powers, recently did just that — and the results were unexpected.  While not exactly reinstalling peak oil on its throne, it did make clear that much of the talk of a perpetual gusher of American shale oil is greatly exaggerated.  The exploitation of those shale reserves may delay the onset of peak oil for a year or so, the agency’s experts noted, but the long-term picture “has not changed much with the arrival of [shale oil].”

The IEA’s take on this subject is especially noteworthy because its assertion only a year earlier that the U.S. would overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s number one oil producer sparked the “peak oil is dead” deluge in the first place.  Writing in the 2012 edition of itsWorld Energy Outlook, the agency claimed not only that “the United States is projected to become the largest global oil producer” by around 2020, but also that with U.S. shale production and Canadian tar sands coming online, “North America becomes a net oil exporter around 2030.”

That November 2012 report highlighted the use of advanced production technologies — notably horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) — to extract oil and natural gas from once inaccessible rock, especially shale.  It also covered the accelerating exploitation of Canada’s bitumen (tar sands or oil sands), another resource previously considered too forbidding to be economical to develop.  With the output of these and other“unconventional” fuels set to explode in the years ahead, the report then suggested, the long awaited peak of world oil production could be pushed far into the future.

The release of the 2012 edition of World Energy Outlook triggered a global frenzy of speculative reporting, much of it announcing a new era of American energy abundance. “Saudi America” was the headline over one such hosanna in the Wall Street Journal.  Citing the new IEA study, that paper heralded a coming “U.S. energy boom” driven by “technological innovation and risk-taking funded by private capital.”  From then on, American energy analysts spoke rapturously of the capabilities of a set of new extractive technologies, especially fracking, to unlock oil and natural gas from hitherto inaccessible shale formations.  “This is a real energy revolution,” the Journal crowed.

But that was then. The most recent edition of World Energy Outlook, published this past November, was a lot more circumspect.  Yes, shale oil, tar sands, and other unconventional fuels will add to global supplies in the years ahead, and, yes, technology will help prolong the life of petroleum.  Nonetheless, it’s easy to forget that we are also witnessing the wholesale depletion of the world’s existing oil fields and so all these increases in shale output must be balanced against declines in conventional production.  Under ideal circumstances — high levels of investment, continuing technological progress, adequate demand and prices — it might be possible to avert an imminent peak in worldwide production, but as the latest IEA report makes clear, there is no guarantee whatsoever that this will occur.

Inching Toward the Peak

Before plunging deeper into the IEA’s assessment, let’s take a quick look at peak oil theory itself.

As developed in the 1950s by petroleum geologist M. King Hubbert, peak oil theory holdsthat any individual oil field (or oil-producing country) will experience a high rate of production growth during initial development, when drills are first inserted into a oil-bearing reservoir.  Later, growth will slow, as the most readily accessible resources have been drained and a greater reliance has to be placed on less productive deposits.  At this point — usually when about half the resources in the reservoir (or country) have been extracted — daily output reaches a maximum, or “peak,” level and then begins to subside.  Of course, the field or fields will continue to produce even after peaking, but ever more effort and expense will be required to extract what remains.  Eventually, the cost of production will exceed the proceeds from sales, and extraction will be terminated.

For Hubbert and his followers, the rise and decline of oil fields is an inevitable consequence of natural forces: oil exists in pressurized underground reservoirs and so will be forced up to the surface when a drill is inserted into the ground.  However, once a significant share of the resources in that reservoir has been extracted, the field’s pressure will drop and artificial means — water, gas, or chemical insertion — will be needed to restore pressure and sustain production.  Sooner or later, such means become prohibitively expensive.

Peak oil theory also holds that what is true of an individual field or set of fields is true of the world as a whole.  Until about 2005, it did indeed appear that the globe was edging ever closer to a peak in daily oil output, as Hubbert’s followers had long predicted.  (He died in 1989.)  Several recent developments have, however, raised questions about the accuracy of the theory.  In particular, major private oil companies have taken to employing advanced technologies to increase the output of the reservoirs under their control, extending the lifetime of existing fields through the use of what’s called “enhanced oil recovery,” or EOR.  They’ve also used new methods to exploit fields once considered inaccessible in places like the Arctic and deep oceanic waters, thereby opening up the possibility of a most un-Hubbertian future.

In developing these new technologies, the privately owned “international oil companies” (IOCs) were seeking to overcome their principal handicap: most of the world’s “easy oil” — the stuff Hubbert focused on that comes gushing out of the ground whenever a drill is inserted — has already been consumed or is controlled by state-owned “national oil companies” (NOCs), including Saudi Aramco, the National Iranian Oil Company, and the Kuwait National Petroleum Company, among others.  According to the IEA, such state companies control about 80 percent of the world’s known petroleum reserves, leaving relatively little for the IOCs to exploit.

To increase output from the limited reserves still under their control — mostly located in North America, the Arctic, and adjacent waters — the private firms have been working hard to develop techniques to exploit “tough oil.”  In this, they have largely succeeded: they are now bringing new petroleum streams into the marketplace and, in doing so, have shaken the foundations of peak oil theory.

Those who say that “peak oil is dead” cite just this combination of factors.  By extending the lifetime of existing fields through EOR and adding entire new sources of oil, the global supply can be expanded indefinitely.  As a result, they claim, the world possesses a “relatively boundless supply” of oil (and natural gas).  This, for instance, was the way Barry Smitherman of the Texas Railroad Commission (which regulates that state’s oil industry)described the global situation at a recent meeting of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.

Peak Technology

In place of peak oil, then, we have a new theory that as yet has no name but might be called techno-dynamism.  There is, this theory holds, no physical limit to the global supply of oil so long as the energy industry is prepared to, and allowed to, apply its technological wizardry to the task of finding and producing more of it.  Daniel Yergin, author of the industry classics, The Prize and The Quest, is a key proponent of this theory.  He recently summed upthe situation this way: “Advances in technology take resources that were not physically accessible and turn them into recoverable reserves.”  As a result, he added, “estimates of the total global stock of oil keep growing.”

From this perspective, the world supply of petroleum is essentially boundless.  In addition to “conventional” oil — the sort that comes gushing out of the ground — the IEA identifies six other potential streams of petroleum liquids: natural gas liquids; tar sands and extra-heavy oil; kerogen oil (petroleum solids derived from shale that must be melted to become usable); shale oil; coal-to-liquids (CTL); and gas-to-liquids (GTL).  Together, these “unconventional” streams could theoretically add several trillion barrels of potentially recoverable petroleum to the global supply, conceivably extending the Oil Age hundreds of years into the future (and in the process, via climate change, turning the planet into an uninhabitable desert).

But just as peak oil had serious limitations, so, too, does techno-dynamism.  At its core is a belief that rising world oil demand will continue to drive the increasingly costly investments in new technologies required to exploit the remaining hard-to-get petroleum resources.  As suggested in the 2013 edition of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook, however, this belief should be treated with considerable skepticism.

Among the principal challenges to the theory are these:

1. Increasing Technology Costs: While the costs of developing a resource normally decline over time as industry gains experience with the technologies involved, Hubbert’s law of depletion doesn’t go away.  In other words, oil firms invariably develop the easiest “tough oil” resources first, leaving the toughest (and most costly) for later.  For example, the exploitation of Canada’s tar sands began with the strip-mining of deposits close to the surface.  Because those are becoming exhausted, however, energy firms are now going after deep-underground reserves using far costlier technologies.  Likewise, many of the most abundant shale oil deposits in North Dakota have now been depleted, requiring anincreasing pace of drilling to maintain production levels.  As a result, the IEA reports, the cost of developing new petroleum resources will continually increase: up to $80 per barrel for oil obtained using advanced EOR techniques, $90 per barrel for tar sands and extra-heavy oil, $100 or more for kerogen and Arctic oil, and $110 for CTL and GTL.  The market may not, however, be able to sustain levels this high, putting such investments in doubt.

2. Growing Political and Environmental Risk: By definition, tough oil reserves are located in problematic areas.  For example, an estimated 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil lies in the Arctic, along with 30 percent of its untapped natural gas.  The environmental risks associated with their exploitation under the worst of weather conditions imaginable will quickly become more evident — and so, faced with the rising potential for catastrophic spills in a melting Arctic, expect a commensurate increase in political opposition to such drilling.  In fact, a recent increase has sparked protests in both Alaska and Russia, including the much-publicized September 2013 attempt by activists from Greenpeace toscale a Russian offshore oil platform — an action that led to their seizure and arrest by Russian commandos.  Similarly, expanded fracking operations have provoked a steady increase in anti-fracking activism.  In response to such protests and other factors, oil firms are being forced to adopt increasingly stringent environmental protections, pumping up the cost of production further.

3. Climate-Related Demand Reduction: The techno-optimist outlook assumes that oil demand will keep rising, prompting investors to provide the added funds needed to develop the technologies required.  However, as the effects of rampant climate change accelerate, more and more polities are likely to try to impose curbs of one sort or another on oil consumption, suppressing demand — and so discouraging investment.  This is already happening in the United States, where mandated increases in vehicle fuel-efficiency standards are expected to significantly reduce oil consumption.  Future “demand destruction” of this sort is bound to impose a downward pressure on oil prices, diminishing the inclination of investors to finance costly new development projects.

Combine these three factors, and it is possible to conceive of a “technology peak” not unlike the peak in oil output originally envisioned by M. King Hubbert.  Such a techno-peak is likely to occur when the “easy” sources of “tough” oil have been depleted, opponents of fracking and other objectionable forms of production have imposed strict (and costly) environmental regulations on drilling operations, and global demand has dropped below a level sufficient to justify investment in costly extractive operations.  At that point, global oil production will decline even if supplies are “boundless” and technology is still capable of unlocking more oil every year.

Peak Oil Reconsidered

Peak oil theory, as originally conceived by Hubbert and his followers, was largely governed by natural forces.  As we have seen, however, these can be overpowered by the application of increasingly sophisticated technology.  Reservoirs of energy once considered inaccessible can be brought into production, and others once deemed exhausted can be returned to production; rather than being finite, the world’s petroleum base now appears virtually inexhaustible.

Does this mean that global oil output will continue rising, year after year, without ever reaching a peak?  That appears unlikely.  What seems far more probable is that we will see a slow tapering of output over the next decade or two as costs of production rise and climate change — along with opposition to the path chosen by the energy giants — gains momentum.  Eventually, the forces tending to reduce supply will overpower those favoring higher output, and a peak in production will indeed result, even if not due to natural forces alone.

Such an outcome is, in fact, envisioned in one of three possible energy scenarios the IEA’s mainstream experts lay out in the latest edition of World Energy Outlook. The first assumes no change in government policies over the next 25 years and sees world oil supply rising from 87 to 110 million barrels per day by 2035; the second assumes some effort to curb carbon emissions and so projects output reaching “only” 101 million barrels per day by the end of the survey period.

It’s the third trajectory, the “450 Scenario,” that should raise eyebrows.  It assumes that momentum develops for a global drive to keep greenhouse gas emissions below 450 parts per million — the maximum level at which it might be possible to prevent global average temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius (and so cause catastrophic climate effects).  As a result, it foresees a peak in global oil output occurring around 2020 at about 91 million barrels per day, with a decline to 78 million barrels by 2035.

It would be premature to suggest that the “450 Scenario” will be the immediate roadmap for humanity, since it’s clear enough that, for the moment, we are on a highway to hell that combines the IEA’s first two scenarios.  Bear in mind, moreover, that many scientists believea global temperature increase of even 2 degrees Celsius would be enough to produce catastrophic climate effects.  But as the effects of climate change become more pronounced in our lives, count on one thing: the clamor for government action will grow more intense, and so eventually we’re likely to see some variation of the 450 Scenario take shape.  In the process, the world’s demand for oil will be sharply constricted, eliminating the incentive to invest in costly new production schemes.

The bottom line: Global peak oil remains in our future, even if not purely for the reasons given by Hubbert and his followers.  With the gradual disappearance of “easy” oil, the major private firms are being forced to exploit increasingly tough, hard-to-reach reserves, thereby driving up the cost of production and potentially discouraging new investment at a time when climate change and environmental activism are on the rise.

Peak oil is dead!  Long live peak oil!

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.  A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation.

US ‘may never know extent of Edward Snowden NSA leaks’ – report | World news | theguardian.com

US ‘may never know extent of Edward Snowden NSA leaks’ – report | World news | theguardian.com.

NSA sign

A senior administration official said: ‘I know that seems crazy, but everything with this is crazy.’ Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Government officials have concluded that they may never know the full extent of information leaked by the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, according to a report published on Saturday by the New York Times.

Senior government officials told the newspaper that investigators are unsure of the scope of information Snowden collected, partially because the Hawaii data facility he worked at, as a contractor, did not have employee monitoring software with which other NSA facilities were equipped. Such software is meant to detect unusual behavior among the agency’s approximately 35,000 employees.

“They’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of man hours trying to reconstruct everything he has gotten, and they still don’t know all of what he took,” the Times quoted a senior administration official as saying. “I know that seems crazy, but everything with this is crazy.”

Officials provided some details on how Snowden was able to avoid detection, including that he was able to hack firewalls intended to prevent employees from accessing some parts of the agency’s system. They also said they believe Snowden acted alone. According to the officials, Snowden would have known the Hawaii facility did not have the employee-monitoring software installed.

On Friday, an advisory committee tasked with assessing the agency’s operation submitted a report to the president. According to the White House, the contents of the report will not be made public until next month. President Barack Obama will then announce which recommendations he will act on.

Snowden, who was granted a year-long amnesty by Russia, has said that he gave all the documents, of which he kept no copies, to a group of journalists who then shared them with news organizations including the Guardian. However, the leader of the presidential advisory committee, Rick Ledgett, believes Snowden has access to documents that have not yet been disclosed. Ledgett said he would consider granting Snowden amnesty if he could provide those documents.

“So, my personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about,”Ledgett told CBS in an interview scheduled to air on Sunday, on 60 Minutes. “I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part.”

 

Oilsands Strategy Presentation Indicates ‘Worst-Case Scenario’ Has Come To Pass

Oilsands Strategy Presentation Indicates ‘Worst-Case Scenario’ Has Come To Pass.

A strategic analysis carried out in 2010 for the oilsands identifies a “worst-case scenario” for the industry that appears to have come to pass.

In a PowerPoint presentation evidently put together for oilsands giant Suncor, Texas-based intelligence consultancy Stratfor warns of a scenario in which the anti-oilsands movement “becomes the most significant environmental campaign of the decade as activists on both sides of the border come to view the industry as arrogant.”

That scenario is “exactly what has happened,” Mark Floegel, a senior investigator for Greenpeace, told Inside Climate News.

The North American environmental movement has coalesced around opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring oilsands product from Alberta to an oil terminal in Cushing, Okla. With the Obama administration repeatedly delaying a final decision on allowing the pipeline, the movement to stop it has grown into the most high-profile environmental battle of recent years.

The Stratfor presentation was released by Wikileaks, and was part of a massive trove of millions of documents it has obtained from the intelligence consultancy over the past two years.

Stratfor presents several options for oilsands companies to address opposition to their business. Among those options is simply doing nothing. Not responding could work because “activists are not stopping oilsands’ growth and they have no power in Alberta or Ottawa,” the PowerPoint presentation stated.

In the best case, the presentation said, environmental activists would move on to protesting the new hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, methods being used to extract oil. But while opposition to fracking has indeed materialized, the debate over the oilsands continues to dominate environmentalists’ agenda.

As New Republic puts it, the documents provide “rich evidence of how the industry thinks about its foes.”

Aside from doing nothing, the presentation also set out a number of other options for oilsands companies, including “rapid negotiations,” “intentionally delayed negotiations,” and “flying in formation” — meaning oilsands companies could come up with their own environmental initiatives, rather than bending to the demands of environmental groups.

The Stratfor presentation breaks down oilsands opponents into four groups: “radicals,” “idealists,” “realists” and “opportunists.” Each of the major environmental groups campaigning against Keystone are located within one of those four categories (see slideshow above).

Suncor denies ever seeing this report, Inside Climate News reports, however the presentation mentions Suncor by name repeatedly.

Stratfor, which Barron’s magazine once described as a “shadow CIA,” is not universally embraced as a source of corporate intelligence. The company has been criticized for preparing intel reports that are little more than analysis of publicly available information.

The group’s reputation among foreign policy writers, analysts, and practitioners is poor; they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight,” Max Fisher wrote in The Atlantic.

 

Potentially damaging Jackpine oilsands mine expansion OK’d by Ottawa – Edmonton – CBC News

Potentially damaging Jackpine oilsands mine expansion OK’d by Ottawa – Edmonton – CBC News.

Shell Canada’s Jackpine oilsands mine expansion plan has received the go-ahead from Ottawa, despite the environment minister’s view that it’s “likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.”

In a statement late Friday, environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq concluded that the effects from the 100,000-barrel-per-day expansion are “justified in the circumstances.”

The nearby Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation has said the project will violate several federal laws covering fisheries and species at risk, as well as treaty rights.

They said they had received so little information on how Shell plans to live up to conditions imposed on it by a federal-provincial panel that they asked Ottawa for a 90-day delay on the decision – originally expected Nov. 6 – to work some of those issues through.

They were granted a 35-day delay, but Friday’s decision didn’t even wait until that period was up.

Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, was outraged that the federal decision came as the government was still supposed to be in talks with the band about how the project’s effects were to be mitigated.

“They just kept us in the loop and strung us along and played games with us,” he said. “To them it’s all a game.”

Although all 88 conditions the review panel placed on the project are now legally binding, Adam said neither the government nor the company has explained how those conditions will be met.

Adam said the government’s move to go ahead despite the serious environmental consequences of the project leave the band little choice.

edm-allan-adamAllan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, says the government’s decision has left the band with few options. ((CBC))

“This government has to realize we’ll be holding them accountable,” he said. “We’ll be looking at legal action and we’ll pursue this through legal action.”

Greenpeace speaks out against expansion

Greenpeace Canada issued a statement accusing the Harper government of putting the short term interests of oil companies ahead of environmental protection and First Nations treaty rights.

“Canada would be much better off diversifying its economy, investing inrenewables, green jobs and projects that get us out of this madness not deeper into it,” the statement said.

“How many more extreme weather events will it take till our Prime Minister realizes this is one problem he can’t mine his way out of?”

The Jackpine expansion would allow Shell to increase its bitumen output by 50 per cent to 300,000 barrels a day.

“We’re reviewing the recommendations and proposed conditions attached to the approval,” said Shell spokesman David  Williams.

Williams added Shell must consult with the minority partners in  the project – Chevron and Marathon – before making a formal decision to proceed.

Review panel suggests compensation for ‘irreversible damage’

A review panel concluded last July that the project was in the public interest but warned that it would result in severe  and irreversible damage so great that new protected areas should be created to compensate.

The review concluded that the project would mean the permanent loss of thousands of hectares of wetlands, which  could harm migratory birds, caribou and other wildlife and wipe out traditional plants used for generations.

It also said Shell’s plans for mitigation are unproven and warned that some impacts would probably approach levels that the  environment couldn’t support.

Shell has said Alberta’s new management plan for the oilsands area will provide more concrete data to assess and mitigate environmental impacts.

The company has purchased about 730 hectares of former cattle pasture in northwestern Alberta to help compensate for the 8,500 hectares of wetland that would be forever lost.

 

Arctic 30: freed Briton urges ‘frank discussions’ about future protests | Environment | theguardian.com

Arctic 30: freed Briton urges ‘frank discussions’ about future protests | Environment | theguardian.com.

Kieron Bryan

Freelance videographer Kieron Bryan being released on bail from a detention centre in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Photograph: Liza Udilova/Greenpeace/EPA

There should be frank discussions about future Greenpeace protests following the arrest of activists and journalists in Russia, one of the six Britons freed from detention has said.

 

Freelance journalist Kieron Bryan, one of the Arctic 30 arrested by the Russian authorities over a protest against oil drilling two months ago, said his first trip with the organisation had been a baptism of fire.

 

Greenpeace UK’s executive director, John Sauven, said all those who had been on the Arctic Sunrise vessel had been given a proper briefing about the risks involved and added that the organisation would not be intimidated, although there were no plans for further protest in Russia.

 

The Arctic Sunrise was seized by the Russian authorities and 28 activists and two freelance journalists on board were arrested. All six Britons involved have been granted bail.

 

The group were originally charged with piracy but the authorities said this would be downgraded to hooliganism.

 

Bryan told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the group were briefed about the risks before the trip.

 

“We discussed the legal implications of doing a protest in Russia. I remember distinctly piracy being mentioned and the laughter that followed,” he said.

 

“I can’t stress what a shock it was to everyone. We all thought that we would get a rap on the wrists and then be sent away, so to find ourselves facing 10 to 15 years was a very difficult time.”

 

Bryan said Greenpeace should consider the increased political pressure that would apply on future protests relating to oil.

 

He said: “I think there has to be some honest discussion, definitely, and I would love to be part of the discussion with Greenpeace about what happens in future. This was my first trip, so it was a baptism of fire.

 

“But I do think there needs to be some consideration if the changing landscape politically on the global scale … The desire for oil is getting greater and as that happens the political pressure put on people like myself and Greenpeace will increase. So, I hope there are some frank discussions.”

 

Sauven told the programme: “People were given a proper briefing and all the potential issues that could arise were in that briefing.”

 

Asked if the organisation would repeat the protest, Sauven said: “We have got no plans to do that. But … when half the oil spills that happen in the world happen in Russia, should we be silenced? Should we be intimidated? Should journalists not go and report that and expose what’s going on?

 

“This was an entirely peaceful process. We have been going to the Russian arctic for nearly three decades. We’ve been up there campaigning against Russian whaling, we’ve been up there actually in far more challenging situations, even campaigning against Russian nuclear testing when we ran a campaign to get a ban on nuclear testing around the world – a ban that we won, and a ban on whaling that we won.

 

“I hope that we can also protect the Arctic but we are not going to do that if we are intimidated or silent.”

Brazil Amazon destruction rises 28 per cent – Americas – Al Jazeera English

Brazil Amazon destruction rises 28 per cent – Americas – Al Jazeera English.

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon region has risen 28 percent over the past year, the country’s environment minister says.

Making the announcement in the capital Brasilia on Thursday, Izabella Teixeira said she was calling an emergency meeting to try to remedy the situation.

“We confirm a 28 percent increase in the rate of deforestation, reaching 5,843sq km,” she said quoting provisional statistics for August 2012 through July this year.

Extensive farming and soya-bean production in the northern state of Para and the central-western state of Mato Grosso were key factors behind the rise, Teixeira said, citing increases for the two states of 37 and 52 percent respectively.

Teixeira said she would meet Amazon regional environment secretaries of state next week to demand explanations and measures to deal with the situation on her return from a UN climate change summit in Warsaw.

Authorities scolded

Teixeira also criticised the apparent ineffectiveness of monitoring by federal state authorities.

“The Brazilian government does not tolerate and does not accept any rise in illegal deforestation,” she said, insisting that the country was firmly committed to drastically reducing deforestation.

Although large in percentage terms, the rise in absolute terms is the second smallest in recent years as 2012 saw 4,571sq km of deforestation, following an even more disturbing 6,418sq km in 2011.

The worst year on record was 2004, when 27,000sq km of forest was lost.

Environmentalists blame the increase on a loosening of Brazil’s environmental laws. They also say that the government’s push for big infrastructure projects like dams, roads and railways is pushing deforestation.

Paulo Adario, coordinator of Greenpeace’s Amazon campaign, said it was scandalous that there was such an increase in the destruction.

“The government can’t be surprised by this increase in deforestation, given that their own action is what’s pushing it,” he said.

“The change in the Forest Code and the resulting amnesty for those who illegally felled the forest sent the message that such crimes have no consequences.”

Brazil, a major global agricultural producer, is caught between environmental pressures and the interests of large-scale farmers.

The country’s forestry code requires landowners in the Amazon to devote 80 percent to native forests. But enforcement has been lax.

 

CN, feds eyeing oil by rail to Prince Rupert, B.C. – British Columbia – CBC News

CN, feds eyeing oil by rail to Prince Rupert, B.C. – British Columbia – CBC News.

 

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