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Fri, 2012-02-03 13:00Steve Horn
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Warren Buffett Exposed: The Oracle of Omaha and the Tar Sands

Credit: Pete Souza, Office of the President

On January 23, Bloomberg News reported Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), owned by his lucrative holding company Berkshire Hathaway, stands to benefit greatly from President Barack Obama’s recent cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline

If built, TransCanada's Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline would carry tar sands crude, or bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta, B.C. down to Port Arthur, Texas, where it would be sold on the global export market

If not built, as revealed recently by DeSmogBlog, the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side, and could include increased levels of ecologically hazardous gas flaring in the Bakken Shale, or else many other pipeline routes moving the prized dilbit to crucial global markets.

Rail is among the most important infrastructure options for ensuring tar sands crude still moves to key global markets, and the industry is pursuing rail actively. But transporting tar sands crude via rail is in many ways a dirtier alternative to the KXL pipeline. “Railroads too present environmental issues. Moving crude on trains produces more global warming gases than a pipeline,” explained Bloomberg.

A key mover and shaker behind the push for more rail shipments is Warren Buffett, known by some as the “Oracle of Omaha” – of “Buffett Tax” fame – and the third richest man in the world, with a net worth of $39 billion. With or without Keystone XL, Warren Buffett stands to profit enormously from multiple aspects of the Alberta Tar Sands project. He also, importantly, maintains close ties with President Barack Obama.

Tue, 2011-11-15 10:57Steve Horn
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Food and Water Watch Report Exposes Lies About Oil and Gas Industry Jobs Claims

A report released today by Food and Water Watch (FWW) titled, “Exposing the Oil and Gas Industry’s False Jobs Promise for Shale Gas Development: How Methodological Flaws Grossly Exaggerate Jobs Projections,” exposes one of the key lies at the heart of the domestic oil and gas debate in the United States – inflated jobs potential.

The oil and gas industry has tried to stand on three legs, claiming that shale gas is good for the environment, good for American energy security and good for the economy. The first two legs have already been kicked out, and our new analysis kicks out the third,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter in a press release. “They have no legs left to stand on.”

Jobs Numbers Hugely Overestimated

FWW's study hones in on the arguments made in the July 2011 report written by the Public Policy Institute of New York State (PPINYS), titled, “Drilling for Jobs: What the Marcellus Shale Could Mean for New York.” That report concluded that by 2018, the development of 500 new shale gas wells each year in five key counties in the state of New York could create 62,620 new jobs.

The report is often cited in the mainstream media, particularly when attemping to “balance” arguments against fracking in the Marcellus Shale and other shale basins around the United States, namely that it is a dirty fossil fuel with a procurement process that is inherently toxic.

After sifting and winnowing through the scores of methodological flaws found in the PPINYS report, FWW discovered that, contrary to the rosy jobs numbers publicly disseminated, very few jobs will actually be created by drilling in these counties, and PPINYS has grossly over-projected job creation.

Rather than over 62,000 potential jobs, FWW's study shows that only 3,469 jobs would be created – a stark difference indeed.  

Mon, 2011-09-26 11:33Steve Horn
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"Haynesville" Shale Gas Industry Documentary Exposed on AlterNet

This weekend, AlterNet published a long investigative piece that I wrote on a documentary that has made the rounds at film festivals and conferences around the country.

Titled, “Haynesville: A Nation's Hunt for an Energy Future,” the movie has pegged itself as the host of the “middle ground” conversation on domestic natural gas drilling, using the Haynesville Shale, located predominantly in northwest Louisiana, as a case study.

What goes unsaid each time the film director, Gregory Kallenberg, goes on tour, is that Kallenberg is an oil and gas man, with familial industry ties in the Shreveport area dating back 80+ years. Prior to the release of this article, his gas ties have flown under the radar since the film's release in late-2009.

An excerpt from my AlterNet article explains some of this in more depth: 

Wed, 2011-08-24 05:00Steve Horn
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General Electric's Jim Cramer Heads to Midwest As Fracking Cheerleader

This article is cross-posted from the Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch

Today, CNBC’s Mad Money with Jim Cramer’s “Invest in America” series will take the show to a seemingly unlikely locale, a place many would consider the middle of nowhere – North Dakota.

Why North Dakota? Four words: The Bakken Shale Formation.

Referred to as “Kuwait on the Prairie” by The New Yorker in an April 2011 feature story and located predominately in northwest North Dakota, the shale formation possesses a vast amount of both oil and methane gas, gathered via the notorious fracking process. Recognizing the economic opportunities that the formation would present to fossil fuel corporations, the U.S. Energy Information Administration penned a report in November 2006 titled “Technology-Based Oil and Natural Gas Plays: Shale Shock! Could There Be Billions in the Bakken?”, highlighting them in some depth.

Wed, 2011-06-15 15:17Steve Horn
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NBC/GE, Dylan Ratigan Show, and the Methane Gas-Media Industrial Complex

Yesterday, I published an article for the Center for Media and Democracy’s PRWatch titled, MSNBC’s (GE’s) Dylan Ratigan Show ‘Firewater?’ Series: Natural Gas Industry-Media Complex Exposed.

Among other things, the article lays out the fundamental flaw with NBC’s coverage of anything pertaining to methane gas drilling–they are a “player in that game,” to put it bluntly, with a direct financial interest in the project occurring.

The article then proceeds to discuss, based on that troubling journalistic premise, the “Firewater?” series that took place on the Dylan Ratigan Show from Wed. June 8 through Fri., June 10, revealing all the ways that overarching premise flawed what was pitched as “in-depth coverage,” but in reality, served as a three-day advertising campaign for General Electric and the methane gas industry (an industry GE is a part of).

Sat, 2011-04-30 13:12Farron Cousins
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Business Groups Lobby EPA to Drop Gas Emission Standards

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has only been regulating greenhouse gas emissions for four months, but business groups are already tired of the increased oversight. According to new reports, some of the largest business groups in America are fighting back, urging the President and Congress to strip the EPA of its new authority.

Mon, 2011-01-24 10:41Chris Mooney
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Will the State of the Union Address the State of the Planet?

It’s freezing out in the northeast—and to hear some pundits and strategists tell it, global warming may be largely frozen out of President Obama’s pending State of the Union address.

In other words, if waiting for the president to say “climate change” is your drinking game strategy for tomorrow night, you may wind up painfully sober by the end of the speech.

As Joe Romm notes, even those pre-speech analysts who do intimately understand the climate issue (and most do not) want the president to talk about energy innovation, not how much of a risk we’re running from ongoing warming. And at a time when the unswerving focus is the economy and jobs, and the president has just named the CEO of a clean energy company, General Electric, to head his new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, you have to figure they’re on to something.

After all, even in the last State of the Union Obama only mentioned climate change twice. And he only did so to quickly reframe it as a clean energy issue:

Wed, 2011-01-19 11:06Chris Mooney
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Is Climate Denial Corporate Driven, or Ideological?

UPDATE: After posting this, I realized that the idea that climate denial is ideological, rather than corporate driven, is also the explicit and central argument of Oreskes and Conway, Merchants of Doubt. There was no intention to slight them–it’s just that I’d read Dunlap and McCright more recently, so their work was at the front of my mind. I’ve added a reference below, and my apologies to Oreskes and Conway.

Recently, I’ve been reading some research by Riley Dunlap, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who collaborates frequently with Aaron McCright, another sociologist at Michigan State. Together, they’ve done penetrating work on the right wing resistance to climate change science in the US, and in particular, on the role of conservative think tanks in driving this resistance.

In a series of 2010 papers, however, I’m detecting a theme that runs contrary to what many often assume about the driving forces of climate denial. It is this: McCright & Dunlap argue that while corporate interests may once have seemed front-and-center in spurring resistance to climate science, at this point it’s becoming increasingly apparent that ideological motivations are actually the primary motivator. Or as they put it: “conservative movement opposition to climate science and policy has a firm ideological base that supersedes the obvious desire for corporate funding.”

Tue, 2009-10-06 13:41Brendan DeMelle
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Apple Quits U.S. Chamber of Commerce Over Climate

Apple became the fourth company in recent days to completely sever ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over the business lobby’s backwards stance on climate change.

In a letter to the Chamber obtained by the New York Times, Apple states [PDF]:

Tue, 2008-04-15 10:42Kevin Grandia
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GE: Coal Never Looked So Sexy

Forget “clean coal.” Energy giant General Electric thinks coal is downright sexy.

This “coal-is-so-clean-its-sexy ad” was pulled by General Electric a while back, but it goes to show just how far some will go to sell clean coal.

Strange choice of music for the ad -  “Sixteen Tons” by Merle Travis is a song about the misery of coal mining.  

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