This was a busy day! Four meetings of 90 minutes each in three different venues (including the U.S. Capitol !) followed by five hour bus journey to Montrose in rural Pennsylvania. We arrived at our final destination at 11.30pm.
Meeting 1 was with Lena Moffitt in Sierra Club who declared the Sierra Club to be very concerned about fracking. The emphasis is on strengthening regulations and empowering communities to fight against abuses. Three aspects were mentioned
• Zoning ordinances: supporting local citizens to prevent fracking in certain areas or within certain distances from urban areas or buildings. Authorities can pass laws to stop the industry but they are then taken to court.
• Haliburton Loophole: the oil/gas industry is exempt from the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and the EPA does not have control over what is injected into the ground. “Chances of passing laws that remove loopholes are very low while the ways in which we fund our elections remain.”
• Support of New York initiative that resulted in ban on fracking in New York State.
Meeting 2 was with Congressman Polis’ Aide, Jennifer George-Nichol (the Congressman was not able to meet us but Jennifer knew her stuff). The question we posed was “How does Washington deal with the issue of fracking?”
• Local control issues – cities want to impose local regs on fracking (Colerado, Texas). Push-back in Washington from local controls from some quarters, want to keep nationalised policies
• Health impacts – softer issue with support from President. Issue also tied to climate change.
• Clean energy – policy is to support clean energy. However, subsidies for renewables continue to decrease, subsidies for fossil fuels continue to increase! Result of lobbying.
• US supports ALL countries who want to develop their own energy capacity, from shale to solar. COP21 will be a great opportunity for statements from Congressmen.
Meeting 3 was with Tyson Slocum, Director of Public Citizen Energy Program. He was a real marketing guy and focussed on messages given out by the industry in comparison with the realities. “Facts are increasingly irrelevant in Public rhetoric in U.S.!” Non –commercial advertising does not require facts or the truth – depiction of oil/gas industry as clean and family-friendly. Reality is economic benefits but legacy wastes – re-injected water, flowback, changing landscaped, little financial obligation to sort contamination issues.
Recently bill was proposed to require the release of names of ingredients used in fracking fluid prior to injection. This failed because the industry lobbied hard that this could cause delay. Now still only have to tell after. Industry huge – 9 million barrels of oil is produced PER DAY!
We have to redefine the discourse. Set carbon tax – price and dividend. Set price on Carbon, reinvest into households on per capita basis.
Meeting 4 was with David Livingstone from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. David enthusiastically dealt with the global geopolitical issues associated with oil and gas.
Shale gas Mechanism – small companies start drilling, big companies buy them over if successful. In the meantime many fail, penalties not too severe, bankruptcy laws not punitive. There’s no mandate to pursue U.S. national policy, only motivation is short-term profit.
Oil is the engine of globalisation. November 2014, fundamental shift in OPEC choice – because of lowering prices (caused by shale), OPEC had choice – lose market share by cutting back on production or keep producing. They targeted market share in order to push our shale. Big game is to keep the world hooked on oil.
New dynamics – cleap oil, U.S. now smaller importer of oil, China biggest, relies on OPEC. U.S. foreign policy towards China now very important. There’s more pressure on China to step into the role of being guarantor of key transit routes for oil. U.S. is beneficiary, no longer the leader.
Shale Gas: Most companies are operating at a loss. Relying on external injection to capital, need more capaital now. Availability of credit is crucial. Credit facilities are linked with the reserves in the oil-fields. Low oil prices lead tio low-priced reserves, which in turn leads to lower credit.
At the end of the day we were very happy to arrive at our B&B in Montrose. Photo below.