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Southwestern Energy Exec Mark Boling Admits Fracking Link to Climate Change

8:03 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog 

Fracking Rig

Even energy executives admit the high environmental cost of fracking.

An Executive of a major shale gas development company has conceded what scientists have been saying for years: global shale gas development has the potential to wreak serious climate change havoc.

Best known for his company’s hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) activity,Southwestern Energy Executive Vice President Mark Boling admitted his industry has a methane problem on the May 19 episode of Showtime’s Years of Living Dangerously in a segment titled, “Chasing Methane.”

“I think some of those numbers, they certainly concern me,” Boling says on the show. “How could you say that that methane emission rate was one and a half percent – very, very difficult to there from here for that.”

Boling goes toe to toe in the segment with Cornell University Professor Anthony Ingraffea, who co-authored the 2011 paper now best known as the “Cornell Study.”

That study was the first to say that over its entire lifecycle, shale gas production is dirtier than coal due to the greenhouse gas trapping capacity of leaking methane. Numerous studies since then have depicted high leakage rates throughout the production lifecycle.

Brendan DeMelleDeSmogBlog Executive Director and Managing Editor, is also a featured guest on tonight’s episode. He discusses the well-funded climate change denial machine and attacks on renewable energy development in a segment titled, “Against the Wind.”

The Years of Living Dangerously episode coincides with the release of a new paper on fracking’s climate change impacts by Cornell Study co-author Professor Robert Howarth.

Howarth’s latest paper is titled, “A bridge to nowhere: methane emissions and the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas,” a wordplay on the industry’s self-promotional pitch about gas being a “bridge fuel” to a clean energy future.

“Smoking is Addictive” Redux

Over 16 years ago, then Philip Morris chairman Geoffrey Bible testified before Congress that “tobacco is a risky product,” “plays a role in lung cancer” and that “cigarette smoking is addictive.”

It was a watershed moment for Big Tobacco. Only four years before that hearing, several tobacco industry CEOs testified under oath to Congress that nicotine is not addictive.

While not stated under congressional oath, Boling’s statement depicts the reality of shale gas development. That reality is denied by those such as former Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon, who says shale gas is “clean” and U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who once said gas is both “clean” and not even a fossil fuel.

Put another way, history has repeated itself, with Mark Boling serving as fracking’s Geoffrey Bible. But does that mean Southwestern Energy plans to stop fracking? Hardly.

“No question, there’s work to be done,” he said on the show. “But we can all waste our time about ‘is it 4%, is it 8%, is it 1%’ or we could all just say ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks it is, let’s go out and fix the problem.’”

“Green Completions” the Fix?

Boling, along with others such as industry front group Energy in Depth and theEnvironmental Defense Fund, believe “green completions” of wells during the fracking process are the fix to the problem of methane leakage and accompanying climate change impacts.

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Exposed: Stratfor’s 3-Step Plan To Conquer & Divide Activists

5:51 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from Mint Press News

Part 1 of this exclusive Mint Press News investigation examined the strategies employed by Stratfor precursor Pagan International. So named for its founder Rafael Pagan, corporate clients hired the company with the aim of diffusing grassroots movements mobilized against them around the world.

Stratfor logo

A look at Strategic Forecasting, the private intelligence agency.

Part 2 takes a closer look at how Pagan International’s successor, Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin (MBD), revised and refined these strategies — and how what began as a corporate public-relations firm evolved into the private intelligence agency Stratfor, which wages information warfare against today’s activists and organizers.

Rafael Pagan — who died in 1993 — was not invited to be a part of his former associate’s new firm, Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin. His tactic of conquering and dividing activist movements and isolating the “fanatic activist leaders” lived on, though, through his former business partner, Jack Mongoven.

Mongoven teamed up with Alvin Biscoe and Ronald Duchin to create MBD in 1988. While “Biscoe appears to have been a largely silent partner at MBD,” according to the Center for Media and Democracy, Mongoven and Duchin played public-facing starring roles for the firm.

Duchin, like Pagan, had a military background. A graduate of the U.S. Army War College and “one of the original members of [Army] DELTA” — part of the broader Joint Special Operations Command that killed Osama Bin Laden — Duchin had jobs as a special assistant to the secretary of defense and as spokesman for Veterans for Foreign Wars prior to coming to Pagan.

Duchin served as head of the Pentagon’s news division during “Operation Eagle Claw,” President Jimmy Carter’s failed 1980 mission to use special forces to capture the hostages held in Iran.

Referred to by The Atlantic as the “Desert One Debacle” in a story Duchin served as a key confidential source for — as revealed in an email in the “Global Intelligence Files” announcing Duchin’s 2010 death — “Eagle Claw” ended with eight U.S. troops dying, four wounded, one helicopter destroyed, and President Carter’s reputation in the tank. The failed and lethal mission served as the impetus for the creation of the U.S. Special Operations.

Largely avoiding the limelight while working as Pagan’s vice president for Issue management and strategy — the brains of the operation — Duchin became a notorious figure among dedicated critical observers of the public relations industry while co-heading MBD. During MBD’s 15 years of existence, its clients included Big Tobaccothe chemical industryBig Agriculture and probably many other industries never identified due to MBD’s secretive nature.

MBD worked on behalf of Big Tobacco to fend off any and all regulatory efforts aimed in its direction. Philip Morris paid Jack Mongoven $85,000 for his intelligence-gathering prowess in 1993.

Get Government Off Our Back,” an RJ Reynolds front group created in 1994 by MBD for the price of $14,000 per month, serves as a case in point of the type of work MBD was hired to do by Big Tobacco.

“The firm has developed initiatives for RJ Reynolds that advocate pro-tobacco goals through outside organizations; among other projects, the firm organized veterans organizations to oppose the workplace smoking regulation proposed by OSHA,” explains a 2007 study appearing in the American Journal of Public Health. “[It] was created to combat increasing numbers of proposed federal and state regulations on the use and sale of tobacco products.”

Paralleling the Koch Family Foundations-funded Americans for Prosperity groups of today, “Get Government Off Our Back” held rallies nationwide in March 1995 as part of “Regulatory Revolt Month.”

“Get Government Off Our Back” dovetailed perfectly with the Republican Party’s 1994 “Contract with America” that froze new federal regulations. The text of the “Contract” matched “Get Government Off Our Back” “nearly verbatim,” according to the American Journal of Public Health study.

‘Radicals, Idealists, Realists, Opportunists’

While its client work was noteworthy, the formula Duchin created to divide and conquer activist movements — a regurgitation of what he learned while working under the mentorship of Rafael Pagan — has stood the test of time. It is still employed to this day by Stratfor.

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Smoke and Mirrors: Obama DOE Fracked Gas Export Study Contractor’s Tobacco Industry Roots

4:19 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

At first, it was kept secret for months, cryptically referred to only as an “unidentified third-party contractor.”

Finally, in November 2012, Reuters revealed the name of the corporate consulting firm the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) hired to produce a study on the prospective economic impacts of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

LNG is the super-chilled final product of gas obtained – predominatly in today’s context – via the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process taking place within shale deposits located throughout the U.S. This “prize” is shipped from the multitude of domestic shale basins in pipelines to various coastal LNG terminals, and then sent on LNG tankers to the global market.

The firm: National Economic Research Associates (NERA) Economic Consulting, has a long history of pushing for deregulation. Its claim to fame: the deregulation “studies” it publishes on behalf of the nuclear, coal, and oil/gas industry – and as it turns out, Big Tobacco, too.

Alfred E. Kahn, the late “Father of Deregulation,” founded NERA in 1961 along with Irwin Stelzer, now a senior fellow and director of the right-wing Hudson Institute’s Center for Economic Policy. 

The NERA/Obama DOE LNG export economic impact study, released in early-December 2012, concluded that exporting the U.S. shale gas bounty is in the best economic interest of the country. 

This conclusion drew metaphorical hisses from many analysts, including prominent shale gas market economist and former Wall Street investor Deborah Rogers, who now maintains the blog Energy Policy Forum. Her critique cut straight to the very foundation of the study itself, stating that “economic model[s] are only as good as their inputs.”

She proceeded to explain,

In fact, it is neither difficult nor unusual for models to be designed to favor one outcome over another. In other words, models can be essentially reverse engineered. This is especially true when the models have been commissioned by industries that stand to gain significantly in monetary terms. Or government agencies which are perhaps pushing a political agenda.

Beyond its history working as a hired gun for the fossil fuel industry, NERA also has deeper historical roots producing “smoke and mirrors” studies on behalf of the tobacco industry. The long view of the firm’s past is something NERA would likely rather see “go up in smoke,” forever buried in the historical annals. But that would be a disservice to U.S. taxpayers since NERA continues to receive government contracts to produce tobacco-era disinformation to this day. 

NERA and the “Tobacco Playbook”

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LA Times Covers “Sand Land,” Ecological Hazards of Frac Sand Mining in Wisconsin

12:08 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On Nov. 19, The Los Angeles Times’ Neela Banerjee, writing from Chippewa County, WI, explained what we covered here in June in our “Sand Land” investigation.

The skinny: mining for frac sand creates a whole slew of problems and must be taken into consideration in the “cradle to grave” equation when quantifying the ecological hazards associated with hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for unconventional oil and gas.

“In time, 800 acres of farmland will be mined to feed an energy boom sweeping the United States,” explained Banerjee.

The crystalline silica sand currently being mined from this farm land is blasted into hard rock shale basins during the horizontal drilling process popularly referred to as fracking. This particular fine-grained, circular sand is the perfect shape to break open up pours for shale oil and gas to flow out from under the ground.

“Ground zero for industrial sand mining is western Wisconsin, in counties like Trempealeau, Buffalo and Chippewa,” wrote Banerjee, echoing our findings here on DeSmog. ”At least 60 industrial sand mines are functioning or in the permit process in the area, up from five in 2010…[A] fracked well could use anywhere from 2 million to 5 million pounds of sand.”

The airborne dust eminating from mining for frac sand, a study published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently demonstrated, can lead to silicosis for miners working on site. Comparatively speaking, “little is known about its effect on people who live near mine sites,” Banerjee explained.

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s Crispin Pierce, a toxicologist and head of the environmental public health, believes a comparison between smoking cigarettes and exposure to secondhand smoke is an apt one to make here.

“These are dangerous substances, but what are the levels you’re exposed to if you live near a sand mine or near a rail line where trains filled with sand pass five times a day?” he rhetorically asked The Times.

A “Hopeless” Future?

Community members aren’t happy with the ever-expanding “land grab” unfolding and some have chosen to speak out.

“People here say this is an issue of property rights, that they can do what they want with their land,” Ken Schmitt, a cattle farmer and anti-mining activist told The Times. “But individual rights end when you start affecting others’ health and welfare.”

Others are completely distraught and feel all hope is lost.

“Fighting this just seems so hopeless,” said an anoymous cranberry farmer. “The companies just have so much money. They can just buy everybody. It seems like nothing can stop them. There’s got to be better ways than this.”

From the frac sand mines; to shale gas basins around the world; from the unmonitored and unregulated pipelines that take that fracked gas and ship it to market; and lastly, to LNG export terminals; the unconventional gas industry is destroying the ecological landscape from cradle to grave.