Saturday, May 12, 2012

On the Environment: Romney and Hannity Share a Dirty Joke 2/2

by Nomad

In Part One, we examined Mitt Romney and Fox News' Sean Hannity sharing a few laughs at President Obama's expense. 
In the friendly chat, they mentioned Obama's remark that he stood for progress while Romney represented only "dirty air and dirty water." 

Hannity snidely asked Romney,"Do you want dirty air, Governor? I didn't hear you in the course of the campaign talk about dirty air and dirty water. Is that your plan?" 
What none of us heard in the campaign was Romney's relatively-recent alliance with the Koch brothers (and all the pollution that they create). That topic was something that Fox News conscientiously avoided. 
Surprisingly, there's still a little more mining to be done on this story. It requires us to shift direction.

Jake and Rupert
The private joke between Hannity and Romney about the environment works both directions. When it comes to the environment, if Mitt Romney's chummy relationship with major polluter (and all around toxic) Koch Brothers brings the candidate a giggle, then the owner of News Corporation must have a few reasons to cackle, chortle and guffaw as well.

As everybody knows, Fox News is a part of that Argus-eyed monster, News Corporation which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Most people mistakenly think of Rupert Murdoch as a media mogul and this is not strictly true. Murdoch is also an oil man.

BusinessWire reported back in 2010, that Murdoch purchased equity stakes in Genie Oil and Gas Inc.
Genie Energy Corporation (Genie Energy), a division of IDT Corporation (NYSE: IDT, IDT.C), today announced that Lord (Jacob) Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch have each purchased equity stakes in Genie Oil and Gas Inc. Jacob Rothschild will join Rupert Murdoch on Genie Energy’s Strategic Advisory Board and Jacob Rothschild’s interests will partner with Genie Energy to raise capital for the eventual commercialization of its oil shale projects.
Jacob Rothschild and Mr. Murdoch separately purchased equity positions equivalent to a cumulative 5.5% stake in Genie Oil and Gas Inc., which consists of IDT’s interests in American Shale Oil, LLC (AMSO), and Israel Energy Initiatives, Ltd., (IEI), for a total of $11.0 million dollars.
To digress slightly, it’s important to look into the background of one of Murdoch’s business partners at Genie- a man whose political influence cannot be overestimated.

Family of The Red Shield
The Rothschild family name is familiar with conspiracy researchers. However, one doesn’t need to speculate and theorize too much about this Rothschild. 
Jacob Rothschild, formally Nathaniel Charles Jacob Rothschild, 4th Baron Rothschild is, reportedly one of the world’s few trillionaires. It would not be an insult to the baron to call him a ”Zionist.” 
In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that without the certain members of the Rothschild family, the state of Israel might not exist at all. 
According to the Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel
Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, James Jacob de Rothschild's youngest son was a patron of the first settlement in Palestine at Rishon-LeZion, and bought from Ottoman landlords parts of the land which now makes up present-day Israel. In 1924, he established the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA), which acquired more than 125,000 acres (22,36 km²) of land and set up business ventures.
After Israel gained its independence in 1948, the Rothschild family decreed that all lands held by PICA (Palestine Jewish Colonization Association) a gift to the State of Israel. This grant is the largest gift of land ever endowed onto the State, and undoubtedly an act which forever shaped the pages of this country's history and maps.
Jacob Rothschild himself is chairman of Yad Hanadiv, a foundation that, according to its website..
is dedicated to creating resources for advancing Israel as a healthy, vibrant, democratic society, committed to Jewish values and equal opportunity for the benefit of all its inhabitants, carrying forward the philanthropic tradition of the Rothschild family.
Yad Hanadiv was also responsible for building and granting the Knesset government buildings and the Supreme Court of Israel. (The significance of Israel and the Rothschild and the Murdoch will become clear in just a moment.)
According to historian David Livingstone,
His country estate has been a regular venue for visiting heads of state including Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Margaret Thatcher received French President François Mitterrand there at a summit in 1990. He hosted the European Economic Round Table conference in 2002, attended by such figures as James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, Nicky Oppenheimer, Warren Buffet and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

It makes you wonder what dinner conversations must be like, doesn’t it? Probably like a game of "Risk" at a Yale frat house.

Suffice it to say, the Rothschilds possess real power and live in a world far removed from ours.

In America's Backyard
Returning now to business: Genie Oil is primarily involved in two major projects, one in Colorado and the other in Israel. Let’s take a closer look at one closest to home. According to writer Neal Ungerleiger
In Colorado, Genie is involved in American Shale Oil's extraction testing project in Colorado's Green River Formation. The Green River Formation is the largest oil shale deposit in the world and is believed to contain anywhere between 1.2 and 1.8 trillion barrels of oil. Much of the oil is currently inaccessible; however, even the currently accessible amount of 800 billion barrels in Green River exceeds Saudi Arabia's explored oil reserves. American Shale Oil is one of four companies that was given a tender to develop the Green River Formation; the firm's portion of Green River is believed to contain 10 billion barrels of oil.
American Shale Oil, LLC (AMSO) plans to develop the shale oil reserves around Rifle, Colorado. AMSO holds a Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) 10-year lease for 160 acres of federal government land in North Western Colorado. The company claims that its extraction techniques, an improved process of fracking, is perfectly safe. 

Researchers at Petrochina who reviewed AMSO's proposed technology in 2008 noted that the fluid flow would be difficult to control and easy to "short-circuit." 

In general, the report noted that "the destruction of the ecological environment can also be very serious and may not be able to be avoided."
The report also cited the damage caused by the so-called "fracking" extraction techniques in other areas of the world.
In Brazil, long term exploitation of oil shale has disrupted the ecological balance as well as the water level and water quality stability of the are near the mines.
If there wasn't plenty to worry about already the report also mentioned the problem of ash pollution- as result of certain types of shale oil extraction processes.

Scientists for the industry have attempted to reassure the public that shale oil extraction (as done by Genie, at least) will not lead to any environmental damage.
The process we use has little impact on the environment. We showed in Colorado and Canada, there is no negative impact on the environment. We are able to demonstrate here that after the extraction, we can even restore the land in the same state it was before! We are scientists. We must therefore ensure that we are respectful of all environmental regulations and the Ministry of Environment.
And superficially, evidence appears to back this claim up. Although state regulators have publicly stated that tests on the residents’ well water found no evidence of contamination, news reports from that area of Colorado related health concerns from residents. 
[R]esidents near the epicenter of the Rockies' energy boom are starting to worry about their health, too, and who, exactly, is looking out for them. The federal government leaves much of the regulation up to state officials - and in Colorado, some residents fear there isn't nearly enough oversight to keep them safe.
"We're collateral damage out here," said Bill Solinger, whose family has had respiratory problems, headaches and fatigue since gas drilling exploded in the Rifle area.
If the residents' suspicions are true, here’s where regulations- that Tea Party boogeyman of Big Government- have a direct impact on the quality of life.
Most of the regulation of Colorado's oil and gas industry falls to the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a state agency charged with promoting energy development. The commission has agreements with the state health department to enforce clean-water and hazardous-waste laws, though it has no health experts on staff.
The Oil and Gas Accountability Project in Durango and other groups recently asked the commission and the health department to require detailed disclosure of all chemicals used in oil and gas production, and to require that the effects of the chemicals be monitored.
The health department said it doesn't have "the resources, capabilities or authority" to demand the information. The commission, meanwhile, said it believes it has the authority but "is not aware of a need for those requirements."
Wes Wilson, an engineer in the Denver office of the Environmental Protection Agency, has publicly disputed a study by the agency that said hydraulic fracturing in coalbed methane gas wells doesn't endanger drinking water. He contends there is a distinct lack of oversight by the government on potential health issues involving oil and gas.
Incidentally, another member of Genie’s Strategic Advisory Board is the 46th Vice President of the United States. Former President and CEO of Halliburton Company, and U.S. Secretary of Defense, the immortal Dick Cheney.
As SourceWatch reveals, while he was in office, Cheney pulled a neat trick in regards to "fracking":
In 2005, at the urging of Vice President Dick Cheney, Congress created the so-called "Halliburton loophole" to clean water protections in federal law to prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating this process, despite serious concerns that were raised about the chemicals used in the process and its demonstrated spoiling and contamination of drinking water.
In 2001, Cheney's "energy task force" had touted the benefits of hydrofracking, while redacting references to human health hazards associated with hydrofracking. Halliburton, which was previously led by Cheney, reportedly earns $1.5 billion a year from its energy operations, which rely substantially on its hydrofracking business.
It may be easy to dismiss these concerns but the Republicans can do so at their own risk. Colorado happens to be a key swing state in this year's election and the protection of the natural environment weighs heavily in the minds of citizens in that state. 

In a bi-partisan poll of inter-mountain West voters, a full 71 percent of Colorado voters believe that clean water, air, natural areas and wildlife are fragile aspects of life in their state that could change if not protected. Therefore, deregulation at the cost of the environment will not play well. (Listening, Mr. Obama?)

Meanwhile, In the Valley of David and Goliath
The Valley of Elah
Genie Oil’s other shale oil projects are outside of the United States and dead center in one of the most contentious areas of the world. 
Genie became an 89% owner of Israel Energy Initiatives,(IEI) in July 2008, which obtained a license to explore 92 square miles of rural land in southern Israel. The Valley of Elah, where David and Goliath once tussled.

Ungerleiger, (in the article cited above) suggests one possible problem with this project:
Geopolitical troubles may prove to be a future headache for Genie: The shale oil formation their Israeli tender gives license is adjacent to the border between Israel proper and the West Bank. Areas of the shale oil formation may spill over into the West Bank; the separation wall between Israel and the West Bank runs adjacent to the believed oil-containing lands.
Even without the quest for oil, the question of land rights is at the heart of the Israel/Palestine problem. Doubtless, the existence of huge reserves of oil would completely render any "land for peace" initiative impossible.
The chief scientist for IEI is Dr. Harold Vinegar, who is a former chief scientist of Royal Dutch Shell and is understandably enthusiastic about the shale oil project:
According to Dr Vinegar, Israel has the second-biggest oil shale deposits in the world, outside the US: "We estimate that there is the equivalent of 250 billion barrels of oil here. To put that in context, there are proven reserves of 260 billion barrels of oil in Saudi Arabia."
Incidentally, a scientist working for the project in Israel inadvertently, while trying to assure the public, cast even greater doubt on the work done in Colorado. Scott Nguyen, Vice President Technology at IEI has said in an interview:
..there is a significant technical challenge in Colorado, but not here. There you have the risk of contaminating the water that flows into the rivers. Here in Israel, the water table is much lower than oil shale. In Colorado, there are mixed layers of shale, water, oil shale, water, etc. In Israel, we have the layer of shale, and then there is water underneath. And in between, there is an impermeable layer where water does not pass. In 2008, we did not know all that. This is one of the main reasons why it is technically easier here in Israel.
Not everybody is convinced. As in Colorado, many local residents of the historic valley have deep misgivings about the mining project. Nguyen understands those qualms:
This is the concern of the Ministry of Environment, the people who live in the area, and it is also our concern. From our experience we know what kind of problem we face, so we invested a lot of work here in the early years, to analyze that.
Given the big name investors and their political power compared to the limited power of local residents, the battle of David and Goliath is a fair analogy. As activist Macdonald Stainsby explains in his article, Apartheid Oil, not all Israelis are overjoyed by the potential for damage to the area.
In the sunny backyard of a house in a gated community, Lia Tarachansky of the Real News Network interviewed Chagit Tishler about the proposed oil shale project while myself and a Palestinian man from a Jerusalem neighbourhood listened and drank tea.
“It's the biggest license even given to a private company in Israel,” said Tishler, who works with the organization Save Adullam, which is made up of local residents who oppose the IEI pilot project. The license was granted under the Oil Law, said Tishler, which is essentially a free entry law dating from 1952, which prioritizes oil and gas exploration over farms, parks or historical sites.
“The area could be ruined completely. This area is the last area in the centre of Israel that remains an open area and a green area, and has a lot of archaeological sites that are important not only to Israelis but to the rest of the world,” she said, before listing historical sites in the vicinity. Known as the Elah Valley, the area was re-settled only a couple of years after the Nakba in 1948 by primarily North African Mizrahi Jews. To this day, they and others use the valley for food crops and Israeli wine.
IEI's planned operations in the Elah Valley include digging five kilometres of trenches through farms and vineyards to expose the shale rock, which would then be heated until the kerogen and other organic materials held inside it are bled out of the rock, producing a basic crude substance. Much like tar sands bitumen, this substance will still need to go through an upgrading process before refining.
At its website, The Save Adullam Organization gives this account about how the project began:
The project had its start in near-total secrecy. The first that local residents learned about the project was on Dec. 28, 2009, when exploratory digs on park land were begun under a veil of secrecy. Machines tore up the soil in the park: The smoke could be smelled and the noise heard from half a mile away. Semi-trailer trucks, sometimes four at a time, clogged the narrow park lanes. In July, 2010, IEI moved the exploratory drilling rig near historic Lachish.
Those were just the exploratory phase. The extraction technique will involve giant on-site production facilities heating a thousand-foot-thick section of underground shale to 650°F. Heating elements will snake underground across 250 acres per facility to bake the ground for three years. Hundreds of wells will be needed to channel the oil leaking through the shale into the production facility.
The extraction will consume huge amounts of scarce water: One to three barrels of water per barrel of oil. (More at the information page.) The machinery will need a massive amounts of electricity, which will come at first from coal-fired plants and later from natural gas from the digs themselves, burned on-site, in its unrefined state. Park roads will be widened to support a flow of trucks to and from the extraction site.
This will cause destruction of the landscape, the antiquities, the wildlife, the air, and the groundwater.
Israel's major environmental organizations, including the Jewish National Fund, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Greenpeace, and the Israel Union for Environmental Defense have protested the IEI license.
As noted, one major worry is the safety of underground water. Israel already has a water crisis, Stainsby writes, but it looks like it might see fit to exacerbate that problem in the push for energy independence.
In a country slightly larger than the state of New Jersey, any damage to Israel's underground water system would be a catastrophe for the long term viability of the Israeli state.

Beyond that aspect, of course, is whether the quest for oil and the profits they will bring outweigh the costs to human health. It is just as true in the US as in Israel. With corporations in a battle against oversight and regulatory authority, it seems that we shall have to choose. Having both will probably not be possible.

Here’s a nice quote by Mr. Murdoch from the Genie press release:
“Covering and distributing news has been my life’s work,” said Mr. Murdoch. “If Genie’s effort to develop shale oil is successful, as I believe it will be, then the news we’ll report in the coming decades will reflect a more prosperous, more democratic, and more secure world.”
Prosperous.. yes, but prosperity for whom? And at what cost to the rest of us?

Democratic? Democracy would need genuine transparency. Not secret deals between governments and corporations. Regulations protecting the health of citizens and the environment would have to be more strictly enforced.

Security? Perhaps but it will be a kind of security in which we cannot trust even the water we drink and the air we breathe.

With all that joking going on- Romney and Sean and Romney and the Koch brothers, Dick Cheney and Rupert Murdoch and the Baron- it must be hard for any of them to take this sideshow of politics very seriously.

Still, President Obama, despite the nonsense of Fox News, despite Hannity and Mitt Romney laughing, may be barking up exactly the right tree in this case.
In the upcoming election, as the president told his listeners, the voters will have to choose between real progress or an illusionary kind, progress based on the lucrative exploitation of the environment and the pollution it may bring.