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Congressmen Supporting Fracked Gas Exports Took $11.5 Million From Big Oil, Electric Utilities

7:37 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

south texas oil

South Texas Oil Refinery

On Jan. 25, 110 members of the U.S. House of Representatives – 94 Republicans and 16 Democrats - signed a letter urging Energy Secretary Steven Chu to approve expanded exports of liquified natural gas (LNG).

It was an overt sign of solidarity with the Obama Administration Department of Energy’s (DOE) LNG exports study, produced by a corporate consulting firm with long ties to Big Tobacco named NERA Economic Consulting (NERA is short for National Economic Research Associates), co-founded in 1961 by the “Father of Deregulation,” Alfred E. Kahn. That study concluded exporting gas obtained from the controversial hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) process - sent via pipelines to coastal LNG terminals and then onto tankers – is in the best economic interests of the United States.

A DeSmogBlog investigation shows that these 110 signatories accepted $11.5 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil and electric utilities in the run-up to the November 2012 election, according to Center for Responsive Politics data.

Big Oil pumped $7.9 million into the signatories’ coffers, while the remaining $3.6 million came from the electric utilities industry, two industries whose pocketbooks would widen with the mass exportation of the U.S. shale gas bounty. Further, 108 of the 110 signers represent states in which fracking is occurring.

Exhibit A: Human Geography of Campaign Finance Post-Citizens United

Energy issues are almost always questions of infrastructure, geography, and geopolitics. So too is the case of LNG exports, with this letter serving as Exhibit A of the new human geography of campaign finance in the post-Citizens United world.

Texas

The expression always seems to ring true: everything is bigger in Texas.

This letter is no different, as 19 of the 110 signatories represent congressional districts in The Lone Star State, 12 Republicans and seven Democrats. Texas is home to both the Eagle Ford Shale basin and the Barnett Shale basin, as well as prospective LNG export terminals in Sabine Pass (co-owned by ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Qatar Petroleum), Freeport (partially owned by ConocoPhillips) and Corpus Christi (owned by LNG export giant, Cheniere).

The “Texas 19″ alone raked in $2.5 million from Big Oil and electric utilities. 

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX8), a recipient of $166,000 from Big Oil and another $23,000 from the electric utilities industry, oversees a congressional district in part based in Houston, the corporate epicenter for the oil and gas industry and home to the innovative leader in the sphere of LNG exports, Cheniere Energy. ExxonMobil and Chesapeake Energy, the number one and two producers of unconventional gas in the U.S., each gave Brady $10,000 before his 2012 electoral victory. Anadarko, Marathon and Valero also followed suit with $10,000 contributions and ConocoPhillips chipped in an extra $7,500.

Brady’s Texas colleague Joe Barton (R-TX6), whose congressional district in large part overlaps the Barnett Shale basin, took $162,150 from Big Oil and another $124,950 from the electric utilities industry. He received $13,000 from utilities giant Exelon Corporation, $12,500 from ExxonMobil, $10,000 from Koch Industries, $7,000 from Chevron and $5,000 from Chesapeake Energy. Koch Industries’ Koch Pipeline runs from the Eagle Ford Shale basin to Corpus Christi.

The Dirty, Dirty South

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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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Keystone XL North: TransCanada’s Controversial Shale Gas Export Pipeline Plan

3:07 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

The battle continues over the future of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, with the Tar Sands Blockade continuing and a large forthcoming President’s Day anti-Keystone XL rally set to take place in Washington, DC.

pipelineIn a nutshell: Keystone XL, if approved by the U.S. State Department, will carry viscous and dirty tar sands crude – also known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit” – from Alberta, Canada down to Port Arthur, TX. From Port Arthur, the tar sands crude will be exported to the global market.

Muddying the waters on the decision is the fact that The Calgary Herald recently revealed that prospective Secretary of State, John Kerry, has financial investments in two tar sands corporations: Suncor and Cenovus. Kerry has $750,000 invested in Suncor and another $31,000 invested in Cenovus.

Which of course all begs the question: Is this another episode of State Department Oil Services all over again?

North America’s Shale Gas Industry’s Keystone XL

North of the border, TransCanada is proposing another export pipeline for the shale gas industry.

Dubbed the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project, the $5.1 billion project will carry gas obtained via the controversial fracking process from the Montney Shale basin westward to the coast of British Columbia. From there, the gas will be exported in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Asia starting in 2018.

“Gas producers in British Columbia’s Montney Shale, far from North American population centers, are seeking Asian markets for the heating and power-plant fuel,” the Houston Chronicle‘s “Fuel Flex” explained.

US Debate Over Shale Gas Exports Also Continues

Meanwhile, south of the border, debate continues over the future of U.S. gas markets.

On Jan. 24, the comment period closes for the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) study on LNG exports.

That study, contracted out to the oil, gas and coal industry-friendly NERA Economic Consulting concluded that exports are a net benefit for the U.S. economically. The Sierra Club has filed a Freedom of Information Act to discern how the Obama DOE went about choosing NERA as the contractor.

“Deciding to export the U.S. gas supply is a major public decision,” Deb Nardone, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Natural Gas Campaign said in a press release. “We deserve a full and fair conversation about it. That’s why we deserve to know how and why DOE picked this anti-environmental, pro-corporate consultant for this crucial report.”

On top of its looming decision on the Keystone XL, it’s likely that the Obama Administration will make a final decision on whether or not to greenlight shale gas exports sometime in 2013.

Though it’s still the dead of winter, the policy agenda is about to heat up in the energy and environment policy arenas inside the Beltway in the coming weeks.

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
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Revealed: NERA Economic Consulting is Third Party Contractor for DOE LNG Export Study

7:33 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Retuers has revealed the identity of the mysterious third party contractor tasked to publish the economic impact study on LNG (liquefied natural gas) exports on behalf of the Department of Energy (DOE). Its name: NERA Economic Consulting.

“NERA” is shorthand for National Economic Research Associates, an economic consulting firm SourceWatch identifies as the entity that published a June 2011 report on behalf of coal industry front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). ACCCE’s report concluded, “clean-air rules proposed by the Obama administration would cost utilities $17.8 billion annually and raise electricity rates 11.5 percent on average in 2016.”

That report went so far to say that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations of the coal-generated electrcity sector would amount to some 1.5 million lost jobs over the next four years.

NERA was founded by Irwin Stelzer, senior fellow and director of the right-wing Hudson Institute’s Center for Economic Policy. In Oct. 2004, The Guardian described Stelzer as the “right-hand man of Rupert Murdoch,” the CEO of News Corp., which owns Fox News.

According to NERA’s website, the late Alfred E. Kahn, the “father of deregulation,” advised NERA’s 1961 foundation.

In 2010, NERA published a letter to the New York Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to protest the prospective closure of theIndian Point Nuclear Power Plants.

A NERA report from earlier this year provided the basis for the popular King Coal refrain that the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Rule would cost the U.S. tens of billions of dollars and “kill” 180,000-215,000 jobs.

These figures were picked up and cited by climate change denier U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) in June when he spoke out against President Barack Obama’s mythological “war on coal,” as well as by the Republican Policy Committee in a May policy paper titled, “Obama’s War on Coal.”

With a track record like this, it’s best to view whatever report the Obama Administration’s DOE (aka NERA) produces on the economic impact of LNG exports, set to come out by the end of the year, with extreme skepticism if not downright hostility.