Monday, February 19, 2018

GWPF Newsletter: Exxon Sues The Suers In Fierce Climate-Change Case

More Than 100 ‘Climate Change Cases’ Filed In US Courts In 2017

In this newsletter:

1) Exxon Sues The Suers In Fierce Climate-Change Case
Bloomberg, 13 February 2018
2) More Than 100 ‘Climate Change Cases’ Filed In US Courts In 2017
Daily Caller, 15 February 2018

3) Shale Revolution Helps Drive Electricity Costs To Record Lows
Energy Indepth, 15 February 2018
4) Fracking Paper Overstated Size Of Methane Leak From Marcellus Shale, Earning Retraction
Retraction Watch, 22 January 2018
5) Harry Wilkinson: Ignore The Biased BBC – Fracking Is The Future
The Conservative Woman, 15 February 2018
6) The American Shale Revolution in Stages - Stage 1: Mineral Rights
Leen Weijers, 12 February 2018
7) After Green Fraud, China Cuts Subsidies For Many Electric Cars
Nikkei, 15 February 2018

Full details:

1) Exxon Sues The Suers In Fierce Climate-Change Case
Bloomberg, 13 February 2018

As climate-change lawsuits against the oil industry mount, Exxon Mobil Corp. is taking a bare-knuckle approach rarely seen in legal disputes: It’s going after the lawyers who are suing it.

The company has targeted at least 30 people and organizations, including the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts, hitting them with suits, threats of suits or demands for sworn depositions. The company claims the lawyers, public officials and environmental activists are “conspiring” against it in a coordinated legal and public relations campaign.

Exxon has even given that campaign a vaguely sinister-sounding name: “The La Jolla playbook.” According to the company, about two dozen people hatched a strategy against it at a meeting six years ago in an oceanfront cottage in La Jolla, Calif.

“It’s an aggressive move,” said Howard Erichson, an expert in complex litigation and a professor at Fordham University School of Law in New York. “Does Exxon really need these depositions or is Exxon seeking the depositions to harass mayors and city attorneys into dropping their lawsuits?”

At Stake

Experts say Exxon’s combative strategy — an extraordinary gambit to turn the tables — is a clear sign of what’s at stake for the fossil-fuel industry. So far, New York City and eight California cities and counties, including San Francisco and Oakland, have sued Exxon and other oil and gas companies. They allege that oil companies denied findings of climate-change scientists despite knowing that the use of fossil fuels posed “grave risk” to the planet.

Attorneys general Eric Schneiderman of New York and Maura Healey of Massachusetts, are investigating whether Exxon covered up information on climate change, defrauding shareholders and consumers.

Exxon, the world’s 10th biggest company, has denied the allegations and says its defense is intended to show that it’s being punished for not toeing the line on climate change, even though it agrees with the scientific consensus.

“The attorneys general have violated Exxon Mobil’s right to participate in the national conversation about how to address the risks presented by climate change,” said Dan Toal, a lawyer who represents Exxon. “That is the speech at issue here — not some straw man argument about whether climate change is real.”

‘Scare Tactic’

Plaintiff lawyers and legal experts contend the oil giant’s tactics are meant to intimidate while shifting the spotlight away from claims of environmental damage. And they say there’s nothing improper with lawyers discussing legal strategies together.

“It’s crazy that people are subpoenaed for attending a meeting,” said Sharon Eubanks, a lawyer who was at the La Jolla gathering. “It’s sort of like a big scare tactic: reframe the debate, use it as a diversionary tactic and scare the heck out of everybody.”

Exxon has focused on the La Jolla meeting as ground zero for its conspiracy claim. Ironically, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a nonprofit run by descendants of John D. Rockefeller who are pressing Exxon to address climate change issues, has funded organizations that led the La Jolla conference (Exxon, which grew out of John D.’s Standard Oil, also subpoenaed the fund to testify.)

At the gathering, participants met to discuss litigation strategies that could be applied to climate change, according to a 35-page summary that was later made public. Eubanks, a former Justice Department lawyer, talked about how the U.S. government used the racketeering law against cigarette makers, for example.
More than four years after the meeting, Eubanks got a subpoena from Exxon to testify about it. The subpoena is pending.

Document Request

Exxon has also aimed its legal firepower at Matthew Pawa, whose firm represents Oakland, San Francisco and New York in their suits against Exxon. Last month, Exxon asked a state judge in Fort Worth, Texas, to order Pawa to turn over documents and testify under oath about the La Jolla conference and other conversations with lawyers and activists. He’s also been subpoenaed to testify in a federal action Exxon has brought against the state attorneys general.

Pawa declined to comment.

The company is also seeking testimony from 15 municipal lawyers and officials in California. Exxon said it’s seeking evidence for “an anticipated suit” claiming civil conspiracy and violation of its First Amendment and other Constitutional rights.

Full story

2) More Than 100 ‘Climate Change Cases’ Filed In US Courts In 2017
Daily Caller, 15 February 2018
Michael Bastasch

Dozens of lawsuits concerning man-made global warming were filed in U.S. courts last year, according to a new report.

The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law found more than 100 lawsuits “raised claims concerning either the impacts of climate change or reducing GHG emissions” were filed in U.S. courts in 2017.

Most notably, seven California cities and counties filed suit against oil companies over alleged damages caused by man-made global warming. Two more cities — Richmond, California and New York City — joined the effort in 2018, but now plaintiffs are scrambling to address discrepancies in their bond offerings.

However, the Sabin Center’s report focused on 82 “climate change cases” related to the Trump administration’s regulatory efforts. Federal agencies have been busy rescinding Obama administration rules, including many energy and climate rules.

Most of the suits were filed in support of Obama administration regulations — most of those were brought by environmental groups and Democratic state attorneys general, according to the report.

“Many of these cases concern environmental review and permitting decisions for individual programs and projects that cumulatively shape national climate policy,” reads the report.

“Some seek to increase transparency and expose allegedly illegal workings within the federal government,” reads the report. “Still others seek to fill the void of federal climate change leadership — a ‘litigate-to-mitigate’ strategy.”

The lawsuit frenzy started quickly after President Donald Trump took office. Trump made deregulation a major priority in his first year, delaying or rescinding hundreds of Obama-era rules.

By May, environmental groups had filed dozens of lawsuits challenging Trump administration decisions and policies.

Full story

3) Shale Revolution Helps Drive Electricity Costs To Record Lows
Energy Indepth, 15 February 2018

For the second year in a row, “electricity is making up a smaller share of U.S. household bills than ever before,” a fact that can be traced directly to the fact that natural gas has retained its position as the No. 1 electricity generation producer in the U.S. in 2017.

The Business Council for Sustainable Energy, in partnership with Bloomberg New Energy, has released its 2018 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, an annual report aimed at augmenting “existing, reputable sources of information on U.S. energy,” with a focus on natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency.

And for the second year in a row, the report finds “electricity is making up a smaller share of household bills than ever before,” a fact that can be traced directly to the fact that natural gas has retained its position as the No. 1 electricity generation producer in the U.S. in 2017.

The report finds that Americans spent just 1.3 percent of their incomes on electricity last year and 0.4 percent of their incomes on natural gas, helping drive overall energy expenditures to less than four percent of total household income —right in line with the record lows reported last year.

The report states:

“Consumers devoted a smaller share of their spending towards electricity than at any time ever recorded, while the total share of household expenses dedicated to energy costs also hovered near an all-time low. Power and natural gas prices remain subdued across the country, and contract prices for wind and solar continued to plunge.”

“… Greater energy efficiency and the continued availability of cheap fuels likely contributed to keeping electric costs a modest part of total consumer expenditures. Spending on natural gas also remained muted, as consumers directed just under 0.4% of their outlays to this resource, similar to 2016 levels.”

The report finds that average national retail electricity prices have declined 5.8 percent on average since peaking in 2008. Natural gas’ share of the electricity generation mix increased from 22 percent to 32 percent during that time frame, while record production made possible by shale development has pushed prices down roughly 60 percent.

As the report notes:

Natural gas has become increasingly affordable for consumers. Retail prices for the commercial sector averaged just $88/mmcf in 2017, down 42% over the past decade and near the recent trough observed in 2016. Gas prices for the industrial sector have followed a similar trajectory but continue to undercut commercial rates, averaging just over $44/mmcf in 2017.”

The report also finds that U.S. power sector greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have fallen to their lowest levels since 1990, including a 4.2 percent drop from 2016 levels in 2017. As the below graphic from the report illustrates, power sector carbon emissions are 28 percent below 2005 levels.

Notably, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has previously reported nearly two-thirds of these reductions are attributable to natural gas.

Full post

4) Fracking Paper Overstated Size Of Methane Leak From Marcellus Shale, Earning Retraction
Retraction Watch, 22 January 2018

Last spring, a group of environmental scientists reported an impressive finding: Hydraulic fracturing (better known as fracking) in the Marcellus Shale region of the eastern United States was leaking enough methane to power a city twice the size of Washington, D.C. (We didn’t come up with that comparison, apt though it may be.)

Turns out that wasn’t true.

The researchers have retracted their paper, “Methane emissions from the Marcellus Shale in southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia based on airborne measurements,” which appeared in the Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres. The reason: Further analysis revealed a mistake in a key measurement that, once corrected, shows the leakage to be roughly half as large as they initially calculated.

And that means one of the paper’s main conclusions — that fracking was worse for climate change in the region than using coal — is more than likely wrong.

Although it’s not clear how much of an impact, if any, the
article has had — beyond some traffic on Twitterand a news article that was apparently retracted yesterday — its conclusions painted a bleak picture for fracking.

Full story

5) Harry Wilkinson: Ignore The Biased BBC – Fracking Is The Future
The Conservative Woman, 15 February 2018

Backed by Greenpeace, the BBC is continuing to mount a one-sided crusade against shale gas development.

In a report on the radio four Six O’Clock News of February 12, at (10:34 seconds in ) Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s eco-warrior chieftain, reported that internal Government projections were for only 17 sites by 2020, 30-35 sites by 2022, with 155 individual wells drilled by 2025. This slow rate of progress, he said, would make it impossible to reach a Government-backed target of 4,000 wells by 2032.

These civil service predictions were revealed by a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). However, they seem very conservative. Looking at the oil and gas licences granted in 2016 under the 14th licensing round, 55 out of about 100 were for shale gas exploration. Each fracking licence involved a commitment to drill a minimum of one well by 2021. In total, licence holders have already committed to drill 75 wells. The BEIS figures suggest there would be about three wells per site, but both Cuadrilla and INEOS have spoken of about ten to 12 wells per site.

Representing the industry, UK Onshore Oil and Gas (UKOOG) has maintained that building 400 sites and 4,000 wells during the next 20 years is an achievable target. Accomplishing this objective would reduce the UK gas import dependency by 50 per cent and could support more than 64,000 jobs, according to UKOOG’s figures. The organisation’s chief executive, Ken Cronin, has said he is confident that this would be achievable if forthcoming test results were positive.

There is no doubt that progress in the sector has been hampered by planning delays and by lower international gas prices. However, recent developments have been encouraging. Last month initial drilling revealed a significant gas resource at the Preston New Road site in Lancashire.

Rather than report the good news, Harrabin invited Hannah Martin of Greenpeace to make the misleading statement that ‘instead of talking up the imaginary benefits of fracking, ministers should be giving their full backing to renewable technologies such as wind and solar’.

So-called imaginary shale gas exploration has already resulted in a £7million investment by Cuadrilla into the Lancashire economy, a move which has supported 50 jobs through just two well sites. What’s more, this has been completely unaided by the egregious subsidies that are seen in the renewable sector. Cuadrilla has also committed to making significant payments to local communities.

Painting shale gas as a false hope is undoubtedly part of an attempt to persuade MPs and ministers to give up on it. There are still some barriers to further progress, but it would be tragic if the enormous benefits of shale gas extraction went unrealised.

The Government urgently needs to follow through on its manifesto commitments to remove some of those remaining barriers. It shouldn’t need persuading of the virtues of cheap energy, improved security of supply and more investment in the North of England. It’s time for policy to serve the interests of ordinary people, who just want lower bills and more investment in their area.

Full post & comments

see also: UK Shale Developments

6) The American Shale Revolution in Stages - Stage 1: Mineral Rights
Leen Weijers, 12 February 2018

[…] Why has no other country developed gas and oil from shale to the same degree as the United States? Or, why is oil and gas development in the United States so much more widespread than the rest of the world? Despite owning 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves, why is more than 50% of the world’s drilling activity and more than 90% of the world’s frac activity happening in the United States?

I am going to point my finger up in the air and argue that the degree of property rights is at least partially responsible. If you disagree, let the comments flow. But remember I am a Dutch dad...

The graph above shows rig activity in the United States, Canada, OPEC countries and the rest of the world since the time hydraulic fracturing started in the late 1940s. Some of the record keeping did not start until 1975, hence the lack of some older data. On average, about half of the world’s drilling activity occurs in the United States, and about 10% in Canada.

The same applies to the number of wells drilled every year. During the last 15 years of the Shale Revolution, about 50 – 60,000 out of 100,000 wells were drilled in the United States. OPEC’s share is only about 3% of all wells drilled, but it is slowly increasing.

Now that the American innovation of Shale Development is out of the bag, why is there no widespread implementation of shale frac’ing around the globe? Some of this might be associated with the lack of resources, level of civil liberties, environmental or political concerns or a lack of proper infrastructure. However, some of it goes back to a deeper question.

Why are the people in some countries much better off than people in other countries? People are the same everywhere with very little variation in human DNA. People, though, are driven by incentives. Economists Roll and Talbott conducted a study to determine the strength of these (government) incentives on people’s individual prosperity using one of my favorite analysis tools: Multi-Variate Analysis (MVA).

In this study, titled “Political and Economic Freedoms and Prosperity”, the authors determine how Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is driven by a variety of political and economic metrics in about 160 countries for which these parameters can be assessed around the world. The used primary sources of data like the Index of Economic Freedom from the Heritage FoundationCivil and Press Freedom from Freedom HouseIncome per Capita data from the World Bank and the CIA Factbook, to find a GNI per capita model that matches actual data with an excellent R2 of 81%. Roll and Talbot found the following drivers for general prosperity in terms of GNI/capita:

"Property Rights (+), Black Market Activity (-) and Regulation (-) have the highest levels of significance. This points to the importance of knowing the rules of the game and being confident that the rules will be enforced. Political Rights (+), Civil Liberties (+) and Freedom of the Press (+) are also highly significant, supporting the view originally promulgated by Milton Friedman [1962]; economic development seems to go hand in hand with political freedom. Three other variables are also significant: Monetary Policy or Inflation (-), Trade Barriers (-) and government Expenditures (+) as a percentage of GDP."

Full post

7) After Green Fraud, China Cuts Subsidies For Many Electric Cars
Nikkei, 15 February 2018

China is reassessing subsidies for manufacturers of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

GUANGZHOU — China lowered manufacturer subsidies for many electric cars and plug-in hybrids by about 30%, with the central government planning to re-evaluate this aid again around midyear.

The revamped subsidy program that took effect Monday grants automakers 24,000 yuan ($3,780) for each electric car with the typical range of 200km to 250km per charge, down from 36,000 yuan.

The minimum range to qualify for subsidies rose to 150km per charge from 100km.

Many businesses abused the subsidy program and collected aid fraudulently between 2016 and early 2017. Sales of new energy vehicles increased drastically during the period.

The changes to the program last through June 11. The government will re-examine the subsidies after assessing sales trends. Local governments also likely will lower their subsidies to manufacturers.

Full story

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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