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The Geopolitics of Energy: An Interview with Steve Horn

9:14 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from Frack the Media

If there is an up-and-coming investigative journalist to follow, it’s Steve Horn of DeSmog Blog. If you follow any of Frack The Media’s social media, you’ve been exposed to Steve. What draws us to Steve (and others like him) is his attention to detail surrounding the energy issue. It’s a multifaceted, highly complex and propagated geopolitical issue — regular reports often miss these intricacies (as mainstream media outlets tend to gloss over complex topics ). Long story short, we got to pick Steve’s brain and highlight some of the important investigative work he does.

Frack The Media: A lot of your reporting has focused on fracking and tar sands. What draws you to these particular issues?

Steve Horn: I focus on these issues for a number of reasons. Most importantly, the majority of the reporting on these issues by U.S. and Canadian reporters only grazes the surface, treating them as only environmental issues or only as energy issues. That’s not the case.

Given my academic background is in sociology and history and my keen interest in geopolitics, there is far more to these issues than meets the eye at face-value. I use my “sociological imagination,” as C. Wright Mills put it, when doing reporting on these issues. That means being an ecologist and looking at how the local interconnects with the global and looking at energy as not only an environmental issue, but also as a geopolitical issue.

In the case of fracking and tar sands, they’re the two biggest sources of energy that have transformed the U.S. and Canada into the “New Saudi Arabia” for oil and gas, huge players in the geopolitical “great game,” as Zbiginiew Brzezinski once put it. Not only are these important issues because they’re ravaging ecosystems and racing us to climate change catastrophe, but they’re also reshaping geopolitics as we know it.

There will still be wars for oil of course, as it’s a cornerstone of U.S. geopolitical planning. But given tar sands and fracking are both seen as political pawn chips on the “Grand Chessboard” to fend off Russian dominance of the global gas market and Saudi/Russian dominance of the global oil market, these issues aren’t going away anytime soon without a hell of a fight by grassroots activists, regardless of the idealism of some well-meaning environmentalists. That means busy times for an investigative journalist and endless stories to tell, an incredible time to be in the business to say the least.

FTM: You’ve reported on the industry influence of academic research on fracking (“frackademia”). Can you explain this issue and it’s significance?

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Obama’s Former PR Flack Anita Dunn Pitches “Ethical Oil” Keystone XL Ad

12:07 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Anita Dunn

Anita Dunn – Obama advisor and TransCanada PR flack

Ezra Levant is the man behind an attempt to re-frame the Alberta tar sands as “ethical oil.” “Ethical” – Levant’s deceptive public relations campaign argues of the tar sands “carbon bomb” - because it doesn’t come from the war-ridden and human rights-abusing Middle East.

Now, the “ethical oil” campaign has a new backer: Anita Dunn, former White House Communications Director for President Barack Obama and current Principal of SKDKnickerbocker, a public relations firm with offices in Washington, D.C.; New York City and Albany.

SKDK – as covered here on multiple occasions by DeSmogBlog - does PR for Transcanada, the company behind the controversial Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline. Transcanada has paid SKDK – and by extension, Dunn – to place ads in strategic television and radio markets in the Washington, D.C. area.

“America imports millions of barrels of oil from the Middle East every week,” anarrator says in an ominous tone in the most recent ad, as images of violent protests in the Middle East blare across the screen. “But we don’t have to.”

The TV ad then switches to serene music and landscape views with pipeline stretched across it, alluding to “ethical oil” coming from Canada if the northern half of Transcanada’s Keystone XL pipeline is approved by both the U.S. State Department and President Barack Obama.

The radio ad - also singing the “ethical oil” tune – claims that building the northern half of the Keystone XL will create “over 40,000 good American jobs.” Independent studies point to it creating 35 full-time jobs and 3,950 temporary construction jobs.

The New York Times explained that Transcanada paid Dunn and SKDK to place the “ethical oil“-style ad “to reach power players in Washington’s media market.”

Dunn’s husband is Robert “Bob” Bauer, President Obama’s personal attorney since he arrived in Washington, D.C. as a U.S. Senator in 2005; Obama’s election law attorney for his 2008 and 2012 electoral campaigns; former Obama White House Counsel during his first term in office and former Counsel for the Democratic National Committee.

A decision on the northern half of the pipeline is not expected for months, yet one thing remains certain: the deceptive “ethical oil” meme and theme will pollute the airwaves throughout that time period, and it just found a new promoter in Anita Dunn.

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Obama’s Former PR Flack: Thread Tying Keystone XL, PA Gov’s Race Together

10:11 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Pennsylvania Democratic Party gubernatorial candidate and former head of the PA Department of Environmental Protection, Kathleen “Katie” McGinty, has hired powerful PR firm SKDKnickerbocker for her campaign’s communications efforts.

Katie McGinty hired powerful PR firm SKDKnickerbocker

SKDKnickerbocker – once known as Squier Knapp Dunn - is co-owned by President Barack Obama’s former Communications Director Anita Dunn and a member of Obama’s national media team for his 2008 run for President, Bill Knapp. Both Dunn and Knapp previously did PR for U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s 2004 run for President, as well.

One of SKDKnickerbocker’s key clients is TransCanada, owner of the Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline.

Another key SKDKnickerbocker client: Association of American Railroads, that industry’s version of the American Petroleum Institute. Rail is an increasingly viable alternative to pipelines for bringing tar sands - and fracked oil - to market.

Both McGinty and Dunn also have key marital connections with skin in the game for the looming decision over the prospective northern half of Keystone XL: Karl Hausker and Robert “Bob” Bauer, respectively.

Like Husband, Like Wife

Hausker is the former Vice President of ICF International, one of the three contractors chosen by TransCanada to do the now hotly contested U.S. State Department Keystone XL environmental review.

ICF and the more-publicized Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group)concluded that Keystone XL’s northern half would have negligible climate change impacts. Keystone XL’s southern half - TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Pipeline - is 95-percent built and ready to send 700,000 barrels a day of tar sands from Cushing, Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas by year’s end.

A previous DeSmog investigation also revealed Hausker and McGinty have myriad ties to the controversial horizontal drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), both at the federal and state level.

Bauer is President Obama’s personal attorney, former White House Counsel and Obama’s election law attorney for the 2008 and 2012 elections, as well as John Kerry’s 2004 election law attorney. Best known for bending election law to help corporations flood electoral races with more and more money, the private law firm he works at – Perkins Coie – has an attorney-client relationship with TransCanada in Alaska.

Pennsylvania’s Fracked!

The top three front-runners for governor in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial campaign are all fracking cheerleaders: McGinty; DEP head after McGinty, Democrat John Hanger; and the incumbent, Republican Tom Corbett.

McGinty currently works for the shale gas industry as a business partner of Ed Rendell’s at Element Partners, which provides investment capital to shale gas industry start-ups.

She also sat on the industry-stacked U.S. Department of Energy Fracking Subcommittee, which penned the fracking chemical disclosure standards that would eventually become an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) model bill and part of President Obama’s Department of Interior’s rules for fracking on public lands.

John Hanger – a key character in Gasland - has increasingly become a fracking apologist since leaving the DEP when Corbett won the 2010 election. So much so, in fact, he was interviewed for the Energy In Depth-produced propaganda film, Truthland.

Last winter, Hanger penned an article criticizing DeSmog‘s coverage of the shale gas bubble, and he recently wrote a telling piece for The Guardian titled, “If you care about the environment, you should welcome natural gas fracking.” Telling because Cornell University scientists have discovered fracking is dirtier than coal production when measured over its entire lifecycle.

And under Corbett, Pennsylvania has more or less become a “banana republic” run by a “Banana Republican,” with the industry running roughshod over rural communities left and right with little accountability – nay, rewarded for doing so. Corbett raised over $1.8 million from the frackers for his 2010 electoral campaign and the same is likely in the cards for 2014.

To put it bluntly and succinctly: Pennsylvania’s fracked. Which means at the end of the day, we all are. Read the rest of this entry →

Keystone XL Scandal: Obama Attorney’s Law Firm Represents TransCanada’s Pipeline in Alaska

11:30 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Bob Bauer

Obama Attorney Robert Bauer works for TransCanada’s law firm.

DeSmogBlog investigation reveals that Robert Bauer, former White House Counsel and President Barack Obama’s personal attorney, works at the corporate law firm Perkins Coie LLP, which does legal work for TransCanada’s South Central LNG Project, formerly known as Alaska Gas Pipeline Project.

Furthermore, Dan Sullivan, current Commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, and former Alaska Attorney General and former Assistant Secretary of State in the Bush Administration, is a former Perkins attorney.

These findings come in the immediate aftermath of a recent investigation revealing the contractor hired by Obama’s U.S. State Department to do the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the northern half of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands export pipeline - Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) - lied on its June 2012 conflict-of interest filing. ERM Group checked the box on the form saying it had no current business ties to TransCanada.

In fact, ERM - a member of the American Petroleum Institute (API), which has spent over $22 million lobbying on tar sands and Keystone XL since 2008 - does maintain business ties to TransCanada, the investigation revealed. This includes an ongoing consulting relationship with South Central LNG, co-owned by TransCanada, ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips.

Under 18 USC § 1001, making a “materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation…[to the] executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States” is a crime punishable by up to five years in jail.

On top of his job at Perkins Coie, Bauer – a well-known architect of bending campaign finance law to allow more corporate money to flood into electoral races – served as general counsel to President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. He also serves as general counsel to the Democratic National Committee and did electoral law work for John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign.

His wife, Anita Dunn is the co-owner of SDKnickerbocker, former Obama Communications Director, senior advisor for Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign and is the former communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee under then-Senator Kerry. She’s met with top Obama administration officials more than 100 times since leaving in 2009, according to a recent New York Times investigation.

Dunn currently does public relations work on behalf of TransCanada and freight rail industry lobbying group, American Association of Railroads (AAR). The tar sands pipeline boom comes alongside a freight rail boom to carry tar sands crude and fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale.

“ERM lied on its conflict of interest disclosure form, and State was either asleep at the wheel or chose to look the other way,” FOE’s Ross Hammond told The Washington Post in a recent piece commenting on ERM’s “Pinocchio moment.”

Given the myriad ties that bind, “looking the other way” appears more plausible.

Perkins Coie’s Legal Bidding for Democrats, TransCanada AK Gas Pipeline Project

Perkins Coie is a global firm with 19 offices worldwide and maintains close ties to the Democratic Party above and beyond Bob Bauer.

Bauer’s colleague Mark Ellis, for example, does legal work on behalf of the “Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Governors Associations and numerous U.S. senators and representatives and their campaigns,” according to his Perkins Coie biography.

The Oil and Gas legal work portion of Perkins’ website highlights its legal work in Alaska.

“In Alaska, our lawyers have long represented leading oil and gas companies on the North Slope and the Cook Inlet…We are extensively involved in efforts to develop the Point Thomson field and commercialize Alaska’s natural gas resources with a pipeline to Lower 48 markets.”

The “efforts to…commercialize Alaska’s natural gas resources with a pipeline to Lower 48 markets” that Perkins’ website refers to is the South Central LNG Project co-owned by TransCanada.

map on the original Alaska Gas Pipeline Project website depicts the route: 

“The project is designed to connect Alaska’s North Slope natural gas resources to new markets and deliver a reliable and secure source of clean burning energy for decades to come,” explain TransCanada and ExxonMobil on the original Alaska Gas Pipeline Project website. “TransCanada and ExxonMobil have the expertise, experience, and financial capability to develop what would be one of the largest privately funded energy projects in the history of North America.”

Before providing legal aide to South Central LNG, Perkins helped the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) - co-owned by Koch Industries, ExxonMobil, BP, ConocoPhillips and Chevron and often referred to as the Alyeska Pipeline - get up and running. TAPS takes oil from the Alaska North Slope to the Valdez Marine Terminal, home of the Exxon Valdez spill.

Perkins’ legal aide, in fact, made TAPS a reality according to an interview appearing online with Perkins’ veteran attorney Guy Martin. Martin was instrumental in opening Perkins’ office focusing on Alaska in Washington DC.

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