Big Oil

Trump Tax Cut Opens Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to Petroleum Companies

After about 40 years of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from petroleum exploration and development, in December 2017, the Republican controlled Congress and Trump Administration hid within the tax cut legislation allowing oil leasing. According to the The Hill article, Mr. Trump boasted, “We’re going to start drilling in ANWR, one of the largest oil reserves in the world, that for 40 years this country was unable to touch. That by itself would be a massive bill…They’ve been trying to get that, the Bushes, everybody. All the way back to Reagan, Reagan tried to get it. Bush tried to get it. Everybody tried to get it,” he said. “They couldn’t get it passed. That just happens to be here.”

According to the Energy Information Agency EIA, In December 2017, “the passage of Public Law 115-97 required the Secretary of the Interior to establish and administer a competitive oil and natural gas program for the leasing, development, production, and transportation of oil and natural gas in and from the coastal plain (1002 Area) of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Previously, ANWR was effectively under a drilling moratorium.”

I still recall as a college student in 1980 the great excitement when President Carter announced protecting ANWR. Despite the Iranian oil embargo causing massive fuel shortages, he valued preserving wildlife and the environment leading to Mr. Carter’s announcement for energy independence using alternative sources and to restore American confidence. Protecting ANWR in 1980 is described by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

“President Jimmy Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). The Act re-designated the Range as part of the larger, approximately 18 million acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, designated eight million acres as Wilderness, and designated three rivers as Wild. It also called for wildlife studies and an oil and gas assessment of 1.5 million acres of the Refuge coastal plain. In addition, ANILCA allowed KIC to relinquish their selected lands outside the Refuge and instead to select the remainder of their Corporation lands within the Arctic Refuge. Section 1003 of ANILCA states that the "production of oil and gas from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is prohibited and no leasing or other development leading to production of oil and gas from the [Refuge] shall be undertaken until authorized by an act of Congress." The FWS website for ANWR describes the, “Arctic Refuge contains the largest area of designated Wilderness within the National Wildlife Refuge System, "where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man." [The Wilderness Act, 1964].”

This year, when Democrats took control of the House of Representatives, they and a few Republicans introduced the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act. However, like most of the multitude of other bills passed by the House, this bill is stuck in the Republican-led Senate.

Update: On Thursday, June 20th, I caught C-SPAN when full House voted to block oil drilling and seismic exploration for one year as part of the Department of Interior’s spending bill for 2020.

Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Alaska

On my blog yesterday regarding Mitigating Petroleum Hazards - Part 1, I mentioned a great book to read about the many activities of the oil and gas industry written by Steve Coll, Private Empire: Exxon-Mobil and American Power published in 2013.

The book begins discussing the Exxon Valdez oil spill ten years after the event. In 1989, the oil tanker ran into a reef along the coast of Alaska and spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil. There were many causes for the accident, including the crew, company and even the U.S. Coast Guard was found to be negligent.

Here is what NOAA learned from mitigating the oil spill based on a twenty-five year review:

“In the case of the Exxon Valdez spill, after two years we understood that aggressive shoreline treatment caused more harm than the oil itself; after three to four years, we saw those differences diminish as biological productivity at the most impacted places compensated; after four to six years, shoreline communities had mostly recovered from spill activities; and over five to ten years, we discerned that changes occurring on the shoreline appeared to be linked to subtle, much larger-scale processes that we would not have noted had we not had the long-term record.”

While natural processes may be more effective than human intervention in cleaning up oil spills, the death toll on wildlife can be devastating as reported by NOAA: “How many animals died outright from the oil spill? No one knows. The carcasses of more than 35,000 birds and 1,000 sea otters were found after the spill, but since most carcasses sink, this is considered to be a small fraction of the actual death toll. The best estimates are: 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 sea otters, 300 harbor seals, 250 bald eagles, up to 22 killer whales, and billions of salmon and herring eggs.”

The ‘Private Empire’ book describes NOAA and other government scientists try to do their job conducting investigations of the oil spill assessment but running into confrontations with industry officials. Feds got fed up with the company’s intimidation tactics to suppress their work and many quit their jobs. I had no idea how powerful Exxon Mobil Corporation became until reading this book that mentions U.S. President George W. Bush, a former oil man himself, saying “no one tells them what to do!”

Another book I look forward to reading is Rachel Maddow’s Blowout, available on October 1st. Here’s a summary:

“Rachel Maddow’s Blowout offers a dark, serpentine, riveting tour of the unimaginably lucrative and corrupt oil-and-gas industry. With her trademark black humor, Maddow takes us on a switchback journey around the globe—from Oklahoma City to Siberia to Equatorial Guinea—exposing the greed and incompetence of Big Oil and Gas. She shows how Russia’s rich reserves of crude have, paradoxically, stunted its growth, forcing Putin to maintain his power by spreading Russia's rot into its rivals, its neighbors, the United States, and the West’s most important alliances. Chevron, BP, and a host of other industry players get their star turn, but ExxonMobil and the deceptively well-behaved Rex Tillerson emerge as two of the past century's most consequential corporate villains. The oil-and-gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries, fouled oceans and rivers, and propped up authoritarian thieves and killers. But being outraged at it is, according to Maddow, “like being indignant when a lion takes down and eats a gazelle. You can't really blame the lion. It's in her nature.”

This book is a clarion call to contain the lion: to stop subsidizing the wealthiest industry on earth, to fight for transparency, and to check the influence of predatory oil executives and their enablers. The stakes have never been higher. As Maddow writes, “Democracy either wins this one or disappears.”

Climate Commitments by Big Oil

Today, the Associated Press reports that, “Some of the world’s major oil producers pledged Friday to support “economically meaningful” carbon pricing regimes after a personal appeal from Pope Francis to avoid “perpetrating a brutal act of injustice” against the poor and future generations.”

The AP quotes Pope Francis stating, ”Faced with a climate emergency, we must take action accordingly, in order to avoid perpetrating a brutal act of injustice toward the poor and future generations.”

The article also provides the joint CEOs statement, “Reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing regimes, whether based on tax, trading mechanisms or other market-based measures, should be set by governments at a level that incentivizes business practices ... while minimizing the costs to vulnerable communities and supporting economic growth.”

Big Oil cannot hide the truth any longer about our climate crisis which affects us all. Climate change is both a local health issue, such as gasoline engines and coal-fired power plants emitting carbon dioxide and many other air pollutants, as well as a global crisis affecting life on our planet. See what the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences says about health impacts from air pollution causing climate change.

Pressure continues to mount on taking climate action and is affecting Main Street and Wall Street, school children, and all life, knowingly or unknowingly. Two years ago I wrote a blog on Auden Schendler ‘s 2009 book Getting Green Done: Hard Truths from the Front Lines of the Sustainability Revolution (see Products page). Last October, he and Andrew P. Jones wrote an opinion column for The New York Times titled, Stopping Climate Change Is Hopeless. Let’s Do It. Mr. Schendler was kind enough to share the link upon my request this week for his latest work. They state in the article, “It begins with how we live our lives every moment of every day.”

I totally agree and sincerely hope that all available resources, including Conserve & Pro$per, can help to make a difference! Please share your comments or send an email at