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Big Energy : Fighting for Survival

The Carbon game’s up : within 40 to 70 years the Petroleum empires will be gone. Even with massive new investment, Hydrocarbon production will be peaking. With supplies of Crude Oil, Natural Gas, and yes, even Coal, starting to fall away, a crucial sub-plot will begin to play out.

The governments of the world will continue to campaign for reasonably affordable Hydrocarbon and Coal Energy to keep the Global Economy afloat and sailing; whilst the Big Energy firms and the Big Energy countries row in the opposite direction, trying to keep the prices buoyant to maintain profit in the face of reduced volumes of sales.

But there is another more subtle twist to the underlying game plan : it’s about making Energy Consumers or rather, Energy-consuming Citizens, pay to transform the Big Fossil Fuel companies into Big Green Energy suppliers.

The end of this game is literally one of survival for the Big Energy companies, but they seem determined not to use their own capital assets to make this clean, green transformation. Instead they seem to want to use the threat of risk to the Global Economy to make their case and get their way.

If the Big Energy companies can keep the Global Economy locked into Fossil Fuel dependence, they can be guaranteed of healthy profits for a few more decades, and their investors and shareholders are guaranteed of a nice return.

If they fail to keep us hooked on “ancient sunlight” because they are forced to “shell out” to Go Green, their businesses will contract, and so will a large number of pension funds, property enterprises, investment banks and independent capital.

If the Big Energy firms collapse, a lot of the wealth we assume exists because of the digital signals at banks will literally vanish in a cloud of car exhaust. Some economists and financiers recognise this risk, and posit that the “Carbon Crunch” will be much bigger than the credit variety.

Peak Oil is about the collapse of the current world order : the global trading system and the way that wealth and assets are managed. No wonder, then, that the Big Energy companies have been paying out hundreds and millions to campaign for the retention of their own products and services, and that, in effect, the governments are supporting them.

The European Union for example, has pledged an as yet unquantified amount from the Auction of Carbon Allowances (under the Emissions Trading Scheme) to Carbon Capture and Storage technology demonstration (and later, deployment, no doubt).

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) is an intervention to allow Coal-burning by Coal-burning Companies to continue, and everywhere taxpayers’ revenue is being used to buy it. But it won’t achieve the wide rollout it would need to to hold back Coal’s Carbon Emissions.

And pretty soon, Coal supplies will be stretched as Peak Coal arrives. CCS won’t be able to help us then. But some Coal-burning Electricity suppliers will get rich by promoting it and demanding public funding for it now.

Nuclear Power is another of the “begging bowl” technologies, offered by corporate experts as a way to ensure stable Electricity “baseload”, but costing much more than is necessary and leaving an expensive, dangerous legacy into the bargain, more toxic than Coal Ash.

Another feature of pit props for Big Energy is that once half-hidden financial support is becoming couched in terms of “stimulus package” or “bailout” as it is known in the United States of America. “Cash for new Electricity transmission Grids” is part of it, and also public finances for Nuclear Waste disposal.

The expert international organisations recognise that massive investment into new Energy plant is required over the next 50 years, and yet the Big Energy companies have been stalling.

They now know that Peak Oil cannot be compensated for by Enhanced Oil Recovery. They know full well that exploiting unconventional Fossil Fuels costs a lot more than they’ve been used to investing to make their profits. Investing in conventional Fossil Fuels will not pay back as Peak Carbon Energy bites.

The Big Energy corporations know that the future is inevitably Green and Clean. But they have resisted diversification, investment in Green Energy, knowing that eventually the governments will have to pay for the Great Green Gambit.

This “Great Game” of survival for BP, Shell, ExxonMobil and the like, has already started, I believe, and you and I are all pawns in the play. We are being offered the rotten apples from the barrel as if they were the finest fruit. And if we resist, and say “enough of the Carbon, let’s go green”, the outcome is State intervention, which means higher personal taxes. It’s a perverse kind of logic, but it helps Big Energy survive.

Here are some of the examples of Big Energy companies gaming with propaganda. And there’s been some really foul play recently :-

“21 August 09 : ACCCE Coal Lobby Drops Bonner & Associates Over Forged Letters : Like a bad habit, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) has dropped Bonner & Associates, the Astroturf lobbying firm led by Jack Bonner, whose “white collar sweatshop” forged at least a dozen letters to Congressmembers urging them to vote against the Waxman-Markey climate bill. While ACCCE continues to claim that “this was an isolated incident involving the wrongdoing of someone working for a subcontractor” – an excuse first put forward by Jack Bonner, who blamed a rogue temporary employee for the forgeries – Congress is investigating the extent to which Bonner and ACCCE went to mislead lawmakers. The fake letters were sent to at least three Democratic Congressmembers, and claimed to represent opposition to the climate legislation from nine different groups, including senior citizens’ organizations, Hispanic and women’s advocacy groups, and the NAACP. So far, investigators have confirmed 13 forged letters sent to the three lawmakers, and dozens more letters are currently being probed to determine if they were authentic messages or more of Bonner’s forgeries. The Select Committee for Energy Independence and Global Warming, led by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), has asked ACCCE to come clean about the letter writing campaign…

“American flags not welcome at oil astroturf rally; Iraq & Afgahnistan veterans denounce ‘Oil Dependence Tour’ : August 21, 2009 : Wonk Room details the unpatriotic Astroturf rallies. : At a “grassroots” rally organized by the American Petroleum Institute in Houston on Tuesday, activists bearing American flags were turned away. Oil company employees were bused in to the “Energy Citizens” gathering to hear billionaire Drayton McLane Jr. attack President Barack Obama’s clean energy agenda as an economy-destroying energy tax. However, grassroots tea-party activists told Public Citizen Texas that they and their American flags were refused entry to the company picnic…The activists explained that they were invited by Dick Armey’s Astroturf organization Freedomworks, one of the participating organizations in the new Energy Citizens coalition. While the activists were locked out, employees of the public corporations Chevron, Anadarko Energy, Halliburton, ConocoPhillips, and others were “invited to participate” and bused to the event on company time…At the company picnic, Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane defended his billionaire lifestyle, saying, “We need to preserve this way of life.” Inheriting much of his wealth, McLane made billions by selling his grocery business to Wal-Mart. In January 2008, McLane received the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service for showing a “deep concern for the common good beyond the bottom line.” National Black Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Harry Alford, who recently accused Barbara Boxer of racism, was also a featured speaker. Grist has details on the veterans organizing against these “oil dependence rallies”…

“20 August 09 : Texas and New Mexico ‘Energy Citizens’ Events Are Really “Energy Employees” Rallies : Oil industry employees continued their ‘Energy Citizens’ tour today in conservative towns in New Mexico, after holding a “glorified company picnic” in Houston on Tuesday. Local New Mexico blog FBIHOP reports that the API/NAM/Chamber of Commerce/FreedomWorks/Big Oil astroturf rallies will take place today in Roswell and tomorrow in Farmington – “they will hold their meetings before going out and claiming these were grassroots efforts.” NMFBIHOP aptly called the Houston Astroturf event an “energy employees rally,” a more fitting description of the closed door event that drew somewhere between 2,500-3,500 oil industry employees who were bussed in and given yellow ‘Energy Citizen’ t-shirts in “another high-priced photo op for the oil and gas industry.”…”

“Oil lobby to fund campaign against Obama’s climate change strategy : Email from American Petroleum Institute outlines plan to create appearance of public opposition to Obama’s climate and energy reform : Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent :, Friday 14 August 2009 : The US oil and gas lobby are planning to stage public events to give the appearance of a groundswell of public opinion against legislation that is key to Barack Obama’s climate change strategy, according to campaigners. A key lobbying group will bankroll and organise 20 ”energy citizen” rallies in 20 states. In an email obtained by Greenpeace, Jack Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute (API), outlined what he called a “sensitive” plan to stage events during the August congressional recess to put a “human face” on opposition to climate and energy reform. After the clamour over healthcare, the memo raises the possibility of a new round of protests against a key Obama issue. “Our goal is to energise people and show them that they are not alone,” said Cathy Landry, for API, who confirmed that the memo was authentic. The email from Gerard lays out ambitious plans to stage a series of lunchtime rallies to try to shape the climate bill that was passed by the house in June and will come before the Senate in September. “We must move aggressively,” it reads. The API strategy also extends to a PR drive. Gerard cites polls to test the effectiveness of its arguments against climate change legislation. It offers up the “energy citizen” rallies as ready-made events, noting that allies – which include manufacturing and farm alliances as well as 400 oil and gas member organisations – will have to do little more than turn up…”

“BP and Shell warned to halt campaign against US climate change bill : Oil firms urged to leave American Petroleum Institute and halt political lobbying by Greenpeace : Terry Macalister :, Wednesday 19 August 2009 : BP and Shell are being told to tear up their membership of the American Petroleum Institute (API) in protest at the organisation’s attempts to incite a public backlash against Barack Obama’s energy and climate change bill. The two oil companies are also being asked to bring a halt to their own political lobbying in Washington in letters sent to their chief executives from Greenpeace and the Platform environmental group. “BP maintains its membership of the API through paying substantial fees based on the large size of BP’s business. It is our concern that these fees are used by the API to undermine US government action on climate change and that BP’s membership of the API contradicts its position on the issue,” writes John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK, in a letter to Tony Hayward, the BP boss. The letter also questions the $8m (£4.8m) worth of spending on lobbying in Washington since the start of 2009, saying this runs against the commitment made by BP’s former boss, Lord Browne, in 2002 that BP would from now on “make no political contributions from corporate funds anywhere else in the world”. A similar letter has been sent to Peter Voser, the new boss at Shell. The demands from Greenpeace follow revelations in the Guardian last Friday that the API was pumping money into a series of “citizen rallies” to put pressure on the Obama administration over its support for a climate change bill sponsored by Congressmen Henry Waxman and Edward Markey which comes before the Senate next month…”

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