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Warren Buffett Buys Pipeline Company Stake on Same Day as North Dakota Train Explosion

9:42 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On December 30, the same day a Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) oil train derailed and exploded in Casselton, North Dakota, Warren Buffett — owner of holding company giant Berkshire Hathaway, which owns BNSF — bought a major stake in pipeline logistics company Phillips Specialty Products Inc.

Owned by Phillips 66, a subsidiary of ConocoPhillips, Phillips Specialty Products’ claim to fame is lubricating oil’s movement through pipelines,increasingly crucial for the industry to move both tar sands crude and oil obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in an efficient manner.

“Phillips Specialty Products Inc … is the global leader in the science of drag reduction and specializes in maximizing the flow potential of pipelines,” explains its website.

Buffett — the second richest man in the world — sees the flow lubricant business as a lucrative niche one, increasingly so given the explosion of North American tar sands pipelines and fracked oil pipelines.

“I have long been impressed by the strength of the Phillips 66 business portfolio,” he said of the deal in a press release. “The flow improver business is a high-quality business with consistently strong financial performance, and it will fit well within Berkshire Hathaway.”

Already owning 27 million shares of Phillips 66, the marriage between Berkshire and Phillips 66 was a natural one. Corporate law firm giant Bracewell & Giuliani provided Phillips 66 legal representation for the deal.

Buffett Cashing in on All Facets of Big Oil

Few understand the increasing importance of freight rail transportation of oil better than Buffett. But he also understands it’s not an either-or choice: pipelines also are key for moving oil to targeted markets.

In the rail sphere alone, BNSF moves over 1 million barrels per day of Bakken crude to market, with The Dallas Morning News declaring in June 2013 that “without BNSF, the great North Dakota oil boom wouldn’t be as big.”

On top of Phillips Specialty Products and BNSF, Buffett also bought a $3 billion stake in ExxonMobil in November 2013. This came just a few months after he purchased over half-a-billion dollar stake in Suncor.

Far from “either-or,” for Buffett then, it’s a game of investing in “all of the above” of Big Oil’s assets.

“Dodged a Bullet”

In the aftermath of the BNSF’s massive freight train explosion in Casselton, Mayor Ed McConnell told the press the city with 2,329 citizens was lucky to have “dodged a bullet,” with no fatalities from the disaster.

“There have been numerous derailments in this area,” he told The Associated Press. “It’s almost gotten to the point that it looks like not if we’re going to have an accident, it’s when. We dodged a bullet by having it out of town, but this is too close for comfort.”

In July 2013, another “bullet” came in the form of a freight train carrying oil obtained via fracking in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale. That one exploded in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, killing 47 people.

Dubbed “bomb trains” by many train crews due to their volatility and containment of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), the smoking gun in Casselton was the mushroom cloud ascending after the BNSF train exploded.

With the freight rail industry carrying unprecedented levels of oil to market and rail car explosions happening with greater frequency — led in the forefront by BNSF — it’s an industry with many serious safety questions to answer as we turn the page to 2014.

Obama Patron Warren Buffett Buys Over $500 Million of Suncor Tar Sands Stock

1:01 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

President Obama bestowing the Medal of Freedom on Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett — the fourth richest man on the planet and major campaign contributor to President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 – may soon get a whole lot richer.

That’s because he just bought over half a billion bucks worth of Suncor Energy stock: $524 million in the second quarter of 2013, to be precise, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Suncor is a major producer and marketer of tar sands via its wholly owned subsidiary Petro-Canada (formerly Sunoco) and this latest development follows a trend of Buffett enriching himself through dirty investments and deal-making.

So far in 2013, Suncor (formerly Sun Oil Company) has produced 328,000 barrels per day of tar sands crude.

Though he receives far less negative press than the Koch Brothers, Buffett’s no deep green ecologist. Not in the slightest.

Referred to as one of 17 “Climate Killers” by Rolling Stone‘s Tim Dickinson in a January 2010 story, Buffett owns the behemoth holding company, Berkshire Hathway. It’s through Berkshire that he’s making a killing – while simultaneously killing the ecosystem – through one of its most profitable wholly-owned assets: Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF).

Buffett purchased BNSF for $26 billion and was “the largest acquisition of Buffett’s storied career,” Dickinson wrote.

BNSF hauls around frac sand for the controversial horizontal oil and gas drilling process known as “fracking.” The rail company also moves fracked oil from North Dakota’s Bakken Shale basin, tar sands logistical equipment and tar sands crude itself and tons of coal. And not only does Buffett’s BNSF haul around ungodly amounts of coal, he actually owns coal-burning utility companies, too.

“BNSF is the nation’s top hauler of coal, shipping some 300 million tons a year. That’s enough to light up 10 percent of the nation’s homes — many of which are powered by another Berkshire subsidiary, MidAmerican Energy,” Dickinson explained.

Beyond MidAmerican Energy, Buffett also owns the coal-burning PacifiCorp and his BNSF freight trains are largely responsible for the coal export boom unfolding in the northwest corridor of the United States.

“PacifiCorp…owns the most coal plants in the West and recently unveiled a long-term energy plan that did not include a single wind project over the next ten years,” explained a recent blog post written by the Sierra Club. “And Warren Buffett is still involved with one of the biggest coal-burning schemes of all — ongoing plans to export coal…to…Asia.”

“Buffett’s BNSF Railway would be the primary transporter of that coal, and the company has tried to get the coal export terminals approved over the objections of thousands of activists across the Pacific Northwest.”

And as his slam dunk, Buffett also has plans to convert BNSF’s freight trains to utilize fracked shale gas. He then plans to use those same shale gas-powered trains to transport fracked shale oil from North Dakota (5-percent of BNSF’s total shipments and 190,000 cars/week), a win-win for Buffett and a lose-lose for the ecosystem and the climate.

“We have a couple locomotives we’re experimenting with this year on it. The railroads are definitely experimenting with converting to natural gas,” he told CNBC’s Jim Cramer in a March 2013 interview. “[Y]ou’ve got to look at converting any kind of an engine to natural gas.”

‘Tis quite the list of “dirty deeds” by the man coined the “Oracle of Omaha.” And relative to his uber-wealth – to cue up the AC/DC – they’re “done dirt cheap.” Read the rest of this entry →

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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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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