Arquivo da tag: Petróleo

“Rollin’ Coal” Is Pollution Porn for Dudes With Pickup Trucks (Vocativ)

Diesel drivers in rural America have been modifying their trucks to spew out black soot, then posting pics to the Internet. They hate you and your Prius

Author: 

Posted: 06/16/14 08:51 EDT

In small towns across America, manly men are customizing their jacked-up diesel trucks to intentionally emit giant plumes of toxic smoke every time they rev their engines. They call it “rollin’ coal,” and it’s something they do for fun.

An entire subculture has emerged on the Internet surrounding this soot-spewing pastime—where self-declared rednecks gather on Facebook pages (16,000 collective followers) Tumblers and Instagram (156,714 posts) to share photos and videos of their Dodge Rams and GM Silverados purposefully poisoning the sky. As one of their memes reads: “Roll, roll, rollin’ coal, let the hybrid see. A big black cloud. Exhaust that’s loud. Watch the city boy flee.”

Video: https://www.vocativ.com/embed/89277/

Of course, there are things about diesel lovers and their trucks that the rest of us weren’t meant to understand. Like how the guttural noise of a grumbling engine sounds like music when the muffler is removed. Or how the higher the lift and the bigger the tires—the better the man. As Robbie, a 25-year-old mechanic at a diesel garage in South Carolina, puts it, “Your truck is not just something to get you from point A to point B. It’s who you are.” In other words, mushrooming clouds of diesel exhaust are just another way to show off your manhood.

Robbie has been rollin’ coal since he got his first truck 12 years ago, but he admits the allure is “kind of hard to put words on.” “It’s just fun,” he says. “Just driving and blowing smoke and having a good time.”

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The pollution pageantry has its origins in Truck Pulls, a rural motorsport where diesel pickups challenge one another to see who can pull a weighted sled the farthest. In order to have an edge, drivers started modifying their trucks to dump excessive fuel into the motor, which gave them more horsepower, torque, speed and a better chance of winning. It also made their trucks emit black smoke, an affectation that apparently won the hearts of country boys everywhere. Today kids will spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 modifying their pickups for this sole purpose; adding smoke stacks and smoke switches (which trick the engine into thinking it needs more gas), or even revamping the entire fuel system.

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A Dodge doing its part.
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Aside from being macho, the rollin’ coal culture is also a renegade one. Kids make a point of blowing smoke back at pedestrians, in addition to cop cars and rice burners (Japanese-made sedans), which can make it dangerously difficult to see out of the windshield. Diesel soot can also be a great road rage weapon should some wimpy looking Honda Civic ever piss you off. “If someone makes you mad, you can just roll coal, and it makes you feel better sometimes,” says Ryan, a high school senior who works at the diesel garage with Robbie. “The other day I did it to this kid who was driving a Mustang with his windows down, and it was awesome.”

The ultimate highway enemy, however, are “nature nuffies,” or people who drive hybrid cars, because apparently, pro-earth sentiment is an offense to the diesel-trucking lifestyle. “The feeling around here is that everyone who drives a small car is a liberal,” says Ryan. “I rolled coal on a Prius once just because they were tailing me.”

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According to the Clean Air Taskforce, diesel exhaust is one of the country’s greatest sources of toxic pollutants and leads to 21,000 premature deaths each year, but even that won’t deter the coal rollers. “I’m not a scientist, but it couldn’t be too horrible,” Robbie says. “There are a lot of factories that are doing way worse than my truck.”

It should be said that not all diesel drivers roll coal. Older enthusiasts call it a waste of fuel and think it gives their kind a bad name, but like a tobacco habit, the younger set are willing to overlook the risks. “It’s bad for the environment. That’s definitely true,” says Ryan. “And some of the kids that have diesel trucks can look like tools. And you can cause a wreck, but everything else about it is pretty good.”

Eric Eyges contributed Deep Web reporting to this article.

Welcome to West Port Arthur, Texas, Ground Zero in the Fight for Climate Justice (The Nation)

If you live in a toxic environment like this, surrounded by refineries, you’re probably not thinking about some future apocalypse. You’re living in one.

Wen Stephenson

June 3, 2014   |    This article appeared in the June 23-30, 2014 edition of The Nation.

West Port Arthur

(AP Photo/LM Otero)

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.” —Martin Luther King Jr.

Hilton Kelley stood smiling in the clear April sunshine outside Kelley’s Kitchen in the Gulf Coast city of Port Arthur, Texas, and extended a hand. Kelley, 53, is a big-framed man, with generous, gentle eyes and white stubble. The sign on the small corner restaurant readsDelicious Home-Cooked Food, but Kelley’s Kitchen is no longer serving. Kelley opened the place up in his beloved hometown in 2010 and managed to keep it running for about two and a half years. “It was going fairly well,” he told me. “But, you know, the town really doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic on this side of Port Arthur anymore.”

Kelley’s Kitchen is the only structure left standing on its section of Austin Avenue, just two blocks from the main downtown thoroughfare. In every direction are more vacant lots and dilapidated buildings—windows blown out, many of them empty for years, even decades. In the bright sun, the streets at midday on a Friday were ghostly quiet.

“This area was once a thriving community,” Kelley said. “It was traffic up and down Austin Avenue here.”

He invited me inside, out of the glare, and we sat at one of the tables in the well-kept place, which he now rents out for private parties and special occasions—there’s even a small dance floor complete with shiny disco ball. But that’s not all that goes on at Kelley’s Kitchen. The space doubles as the office of the Community In-Power & Development Association, or CIDA—the small, tough, grassroots community advocacy and environmental justice organization that Kelley founded in 2000, soon after returning to Port Arthur from California, where he was working in the movie industry as an actor and stunt man. In 2011, he received the prestigious Goldman Prize for his environmental justice activism. Kelley has testified before the Texas Legislature and the US Senate, addressed UNESCO in Paris, and met President Obama at the White House.

Just a few blocks from where we sat is the historic African-American community of West Port Arthur, where Kelley was born and raised in the Carver Terrace housing project, on the fence line of two massive oil refineries—one owned by Valero (formerly Gulf Oil) and the other by Motiva (formerly Texaco). In fact, the recently completed expansion of the Motiva refinery, which Kelley’s group fought hard against, makes it the largest in the nation, having more than doubled its capacity to 600,000 barrels of crude per day. Nearby are five more petrochemical plants and the Veolia incinerator facility. Port Arthur is on the receiving end of the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, the southern leg of which—cutting through East Texas communities—went operational in January. But the industry brings few jobs to West Port Arthur, where unemployment is over 15 percent. Workers commute to the plants, and economic development has moved north since the 1980s, along with white flight, to the newer Mid-County area along Highway 69 toward Nederland, where you’ll find a sudden explosion of malls, big-box stores, hotels and theme restaurants with busy parking lots.

And yet the economic abandonment of the downtown area and West Port Arthur, in the very shadow of the world’s richest industry, isn’t even the whole story—there’s also the pollution, some of the most toxic in the country. “One in five West Port Arthur households has someone in it with a respiratory illness,” Kelley said. “One in five.” The county’s cancer mortality rate, according to a recent study, is 25 percent higher than the state average. Toxic “events”—whether from gas flares or accidents—are common, Kelley told me: emissions often darkening the sky, fumes wafting into the neighborhood. The community is downwind of several of the refineries nearby. “If one isn’t flaring or smoking, another one is,” Kelley said. “At least twice a month, we’re going to get some flaring and smoke from one of them.” As much as he can, he documents the events. “Sometimes it’ll be really pungent, to the point where it stings the nose and eyes.”

But apart from these incidents, he added, there’s the constant day-to-day toxic menace in the air. “It’s not always what you see—it’s what you don’t see. A lot of these gases are very dangerous. Sometimes newcomers will smell it and we can’t, because we’re desensitized to it.”

* * *

Kelley had offered to show me around Port Arthur and give me the fence-line tour on the west side, the community where he grew up. I knew about his accomplishments with CIDA—among other things, how they’d successfully pressured both Motiva and Valero, the former to install state-of-the-art equipment to reduce toxic emissions and pay for a community development center, and the latter to fund a new health clinic. And I understood that CIDA is more than an environmental justice group: its mission is to educate, empower and revitalize the community, working especially with young people. I knew that Kelley has made a real difference since returning home.

But before we left Kelley’s Kitchen, I needed to ask him about another threat—one that, given Port Arthur’s economic and racial marginalization, its proximity to dangerous petrochemical infrastructure, and its location on the gulf, could ultimately be the most devastating of all.

Yes, he answered, “we are seeing some of the impacts of climate change around here, as a matter of fact.” The rising sea level has washed out parts of Highway 87 between Port Arthur and Galveston. “They’ve abandoned the road,” Kelley said. And the ferocity of hurricanes, from Katrina and Rita to Ike, has shaken even Port Arthur natives like him. They were spared the worst of Katrina, “but Rita came very soon after that, and that’s when we got hit hard,” Kelley said. “I mean, a lot of the houses are gone. You can still see the FEMA tarps on some of the roofs today. A lot of homes that were once inhabited are now abandoned, because the federal dollars didn’t come in soon enough and the houses just dry-rotted.” The residents of Port Arthur haven’t faced the kind of epic flooding that was seen in New Orleans, but with Hurricane Ike they came close. “Ike brought in a huge surge, and it reached right to the top of our hundred-year levee but didn’t breach it.” Even so, the roof of Kelley’s old office was torn off: “The rain just poured in and destroyed everything.”

I’d heard about Port Arthur, but nothing prepared me for the physical reality of the place—a decaying, all-but-forgotten urban landscape inhabited by a struggling and precariously resilient community. As you drive west and north out of downtown, the refineries stretch for miles, at times towering over you like something out of dystopian science fiction. But this is not some futuristic scenario—it’s here and now. And those same smokestacks that are poisoning the inhabitants of Port Arthur are part of a global fossil fuel infrastructure that has trapped us in its political-economic grip, threatening civilization and the future of life on Earth—threatening not only the children of Port Arthur but everyone’s children, everywhere, including my own.

And yet, here’s the thing: if you live in West Port Arthur and toxic emissions have ruined your health, or your child can’t go to school because she can’t breathe, or you can’t find a job and feed your kids and see no way out of the projects—or all of the above—then you’re probably not thinking about some future apocalypse. You’re living in one. You inhabit an apocalyptic present. And what’s true of Port Arthur is true of frontline communities across the Gulf Coast and across the continent—and the world.

* * *

The struggle for climate justice is a struggle at the crossroads of historic and present injustices and a looming catastrophe that will prove to be, if allowed to unfold unchecked, the mother of all injustices. Because the disaster that is unfolding now will not only compound the suffering of those already oppressed—indeed, is already compounding it—but may very well foreclose any future hope of social stability and social justice.

So why does the term “climate justice” barely register in the American conversation about climate change? Lurking in that question is a tension at the heart of the struggle: a tension between the mainstream climate movement (largely white, well-funded and Washington-focused) and those—most often people of color—who have been fighting for social and environmental justice for decades.

Nobody has worked longer and harder at this intersection of climate and environmental justice than Robert Bullard, the celebrated sociologist and activist who is often called the father of the environmental justice movement. In 1994, he founded the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, the first of its kind, and since 2011 he’s been the dean of the Barbara Jordan–Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University (TSU) in Houston. It was Bullard who introduced me to Hilton Kelley, and I knew he could offer historical insight into the relationship between the environmental justice and climate movements.

“Climate change looms as the global environmental justice issue of the twenty-first century,” Bullard writes in 2012’s The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How the Government Response to Disaster Endangers African American Communities, co-authored with longtime collaborator Beverly Wright, founding director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University in New Orleans. “It poses special environmental justice challenges for communities that are already overburdened with air pollution, poverty, and environmentally related illnesses.” Climate change, as Bullard and Wright show, exacerbates existing inequities. “The most vulnerable populations will suffer the earliest and most damaging setbacks,” they write, “even though they have contributed the least to the problem of global warming.” (As if to prove the point, their project was delayed for more than two years by Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed the Deep South Center’s computer files and devastated Wright’s New Orleans East community. Her chapters documenting the unequal treatment of the city’s African-Americans in the Katrina recovery are a tour de force.)

Bullard’s landmark 1990 book Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Qualityestablished the empirical and theoretical—and, for that matter, moral—basis of environmental justice. Through his early work on the siting of urban landfills in Houston’s African-American neighborhoods, beginning in 1978, as well as the siting around the country of toxic waste and incineration facilities, petrochemical plants and refineries, polluting power plants and more, Bullard has systematically exposed the structural and at times blatant racism—which he calls “environmental racism”—underlying the disproportionate burden of pollution on communities of color, especially African-African communities in the South. His work has done much to set the agenda of the environmental-justice movement.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Executive Order 12898, signed by Bill Clinton in February 1994, which explicitly established environmental justice in minority and low-income populations as a principle of federal policy. This year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act—a fitting coincidence, as Bullard likes to point out, because the “EJ” executive order reinforced the historic 1964 law. However, in a report released in February called “Environmental Justice Milestones and Accomplishments: 1964 to 2014,” Bullard and his colleagues at TSU write, in what must qualify as understatement: “The EJ Executive Order after twenty years and three U.S. presidents has never been fully implemented.”

I sat down with Bob Bullard (as he’s universally known) in April in his office at TSU, where we had two lively and substantive conversations. I’d interviewed him once before, by phone last August, and in the meantime he’d been much in demand. In September, he received the Sierra Club’s John Muir Award, its highest honor; in March, he delivered the opening keynote address at the National Association of Environmental Law Societies conference at Harvard Law School, assessing environmental justice after twenty years (former EPA chief Lisa Jackson was the other keynoter). He received two standing ovations from the jam-packed Harvard audience.

* * *

Bullard, who grew up in small-town Alabama, speaks with an orator’s cadences and a comedian’s timing. At 67, he has a fighter’s glint in his eye and an irresistibly mischievous grin above a Du Boisian goatee (he calls W.E.B. Du Bois his intellectual hero). In Houston, I asked him about the relationship between environmental justice, traditionally understood, and climate justice—and why they sometimes appear to be in tension, at least in the United States.

Bullard likes to start with a history lesson. In 1991, he helped convene the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit in Washington, DC, where seventeen “Principles of Environmental Justice” were adopted. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, those principles were circulated in several languages. But it wasn’t until 2000, in The Hague, that Bullard joined other leaders and groups from around the world for the first “climate justice summit,” meeting in parallel with the sixth United Nations climate conference, or COP 6. “It was a very transformative time,” Bullard recalled. “When environmental justice groups and groups working on climate, on human rights and social justice and civil rights, came together in The Hague in 2000, ‘climate justice’ was not a term that was universally used.” At that summit, “we said that climate justice has to be the centerpiece in dealing with climate change. If you look at the communities that are impacted first, worst and longest—whether in Asia, Africa, Latin America or here in the US—when you talk about the majority of people around the world, climate justice is not a footnote. It is the centerpiece.” And this is not a minority view, he added: “It’s the majority view.”

And yet, Bullard said, here in the United States, “equity and justice get a footnote”—in terms of framing the conversation, it’s been a struggle to make sure that justice is given parity with the science. “That’s the rub,” Bullard told me. “And that’s why the climate movement has not been able to get traction like you’d think it would, given the facts that are there. The people on the ground who could actually form the face of climate change, be the poster child of global warming—they’re almost relegated to the fringes. And that is a mistake.” In the United States as well as globally, Bullard said, “we know the faces, we know what they look like. We know the frontline communities, the frontline nations. But to what extent do we have leadership that’s reflective of communities that are hardest hit? Very little has changed over the last twenty years when it comes to who’s out there.”

I observed that climate justice ought to be the most unifying concept on the planet, if only for the simple reason that people tend to care about their children and grandchildren. I had asked Bullard earlier about the idea of intergenerational justice—the fact that, along with those in the poorest and most vulnerable communities around the world, today’s young people and future generations will bear the vastly disproportionate, potentially devastating impacts of climate change. Isn’t climate justice really environmental justice writ large—in fact, on a global scale—yet with this added generational dimension?

“Exactly,” Bullard said. “And for me, that’s the glue and the organizing catalyst that can bring people together across racial and class lines.”

In that case, I wondered aloud, if the central mission and purpose of the climate movement is to prevent runaway, civilization-destroying global warming—in other words, to create the necessary political and economic conditions for a last-ditch, all-out effort to keep enough fossil fuels in the ground—then isn’t that work already about racial, economic, social and, yes, generational justice? Because the consequences, if we don’t do everything possible to keep fossil fuels in the ground—

“Then we’re not going to have any justice,” Bullard interjected.

“In terms of the moral imperative,” he added, “looking at the severe impacts—the impact on food security, on cross-border conflicts, war, climate refugees—when you look at the human rights piece, in terms of threats to humanity, if we drew it out and looked at it, I think more people would be appalled at these little baby steps that we’re taking. This is an emergency, and it calls for emergency action—not baby steps, but emergency action.”

Nevertheless, Bullard also explained why that all-consuming focus on greenhouse gas emissions is insufficient by itself.

“You have to understand that in order to have a movement, people have to identify with—andown—the movement,” he said. “Just saying climate change is a big problem is not enough to get people to say, ‘We’re gonna work to try to keep coal and oil in the ground.’ There has to be something to trigger people to say, ‘This is my own movement.’”

Bullard believes that the climate justice framework can “bring more people to the table.” Take the example of coal plants: “The environmental justice analysis is that it’s not just the greenhouse gases we’re talking about; in terms of health, it’s also these nasty co-pollutants that are doing damage right now. Not the future—right now.”

So to bring those people to the table, he continued, “you have to say: How do you build a movement around that and reach people where they are?”

* * *

Last year, Bullard and his colleagues at TSU and other historically black colleges and universities—including Beverly Wright at Dillard and the Deep South Center in New Orleans—launched an initiative they call the Climate Education Community University Partnership (CECUP). “We’re linking our schools with these vulnerable communities,” Bullard told me, “trying to get to a population that has historically been left out. We’re going to try to get our people involved.”

When you look at the most vulnerable communities, the “adaptation hot spots,” he added, these are the same communities the schools were founded to serve, and often the very places in which they are located. “We’re not going to wait for somebody to ride in on a white horse and say, ‘We’re going to save these communities!’” Bullard said. “We have to take leadership.”

The initiative invests in a new generation of young scholars and leaders who can draw the connections between greenhouse gas emissions, climate adaptation, and the classic environmental justice issues of pollution, health, and racial and class disparities. “Our folks on the ground can make the connections between these dirty diesel buses, that dirty coal plant, and their kids having to go to the emergency room because of an asthma attack, with no health insurance,” Bullard said. “We see it as human rights issues, environmental issues, health issues, issues of differential power.”

Clearly, anyone like me—with my 40,000-foot view of the climate crisis—would do well to try seeing the concept of climate justice from the ground up, at street level, and through a racial-equity lens. Sitting down with five of Bullard’s graduate students at TSU—joined by two of his colleagues, sociologist and associate dean Glenn Johnson and environmental toxicologist Denae King—I was treated to a generous portion of that ground-up perspective.

For Steven Washington, a 29-year-old native of Houston’s Third Ward and a second-year master’s student in urban planning and public policy, “climate change means asthma; it means health disparities.” Working in Pleasantville, a fence-line community along the Port of Houston, he’s concerned about the city’s notorious air quality, graded F by the American Lung Association, and what it means for a population—especially the elderly—ill equipped to deal with the impacts of climate change. For Jenise Young, a 33-year-old doctoral student in urban planning and environmental policy whose 9-year-old son suffers from severe asthma, climate change is also about “food deserts” like the one surrounding the TSU campus—a social inequity that climate change, as it increases food insecurity, only deepens. (The wealthier University of Houston campus next door inhabits something of an oasis in that desert.) Jamila Gomez, 26, a second-year master’s student in urban planning and environmental policy, points to transportation inequities—the fact that students can’t get to internships in the city, that the elderly can’t get to grocery stores and doctors’ offices, that the bus service takes too long and Third Ward bus stops lack shade on Houston’s sweltering summer days.

I asked the students if they see the growing US climate justice movement—especially students and young people who want to foreground these issues—as a hopeful sign.

“My major concern is that this is a lifelong commitment,” Young replied. “That’s my issue with a lot of the climate justice movement—that it’s the hot topic right now. Prior to that, it was Occupy Wall Street. Prior to that, it was the Obama campaign. But what happens when this is not a fad for you anymore? Because this is not a fad.”

Glenn Johnson, the co-editor of several books, including Environmental Health and Racial Equity in the United States, chimed in: “It’s a life-and-death situation. There are others who come into the movement, they have a choice—they can go back to their respective communities. But for us, there’s no backing out of talking about the [Houston] ship channel. We are the front line; it’s 24/7. When we wake up, we smell that shit.”

“It’s not one problem,” said Denae King. “It’s multiple problems—poverty, food security, greenhouse emissions, all of these things happening at once. In the mind of a person living in a fence-line community, you have to address all of the problems.” Climate change is urgent, she added, “but still, I have to pay my bills today. I have to provide healthy food today.”

All of which is undeniably true. And it is equally true that the scientific evidence overwhelmingly indicates that the window in which to take serious action on climate change is closing fast. Unless we act now to begin radically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building resilience, our children and future generations face catastrophe. What you hear from climate justice advocates working on the front lines is that, precisely because of this emergency, the way to build a powerful movement is to approach climate change as an intersectional issue.

After I left Houston, I spoke with Jacqueline Patterson, director of the Environmental and Climate Justice Program at the NAACP. One of the first things she did upon arriving in 2009, Patterson told me, was to write a memo looking at climate justice and the NAACP’s traditional agenda. “It went area by area—health, education, civic engagement, criminal justice, economic development—and showed how environmental and climate justice directly intersect in myriad ways.”

Patterson’s work rests on the understanding that if we’re going to address climate change seriously, then we’re in for a rapid energy transition—one that’s by no means guaranteed to be smooth or economically just. In December, her initiative released its “Just Energy Policies” report, looking state by state at the measures—from local-hire provisions to ones for minority- and women-owned businesses—that can help bring about a just transition to clean energy. At a press conference in Milwaukee the day before, Patterson said, she stood next to NAACP leaders, “and we were talking about starting a training and job-placement program for formerly incarcerated youth and youth at risk around solar installation and energy-efficiency retrofitting.” An energy-efficiency bill was recently introduced in the Missouri Legislature, she noted. “Before, we might not have seen the NAACP getting behind that legislation, because the energy conversation wasn’t seen as part of our civil rights agenda. Now, they’re in with both feet.”

Bob Bullard talks about growing up in the small, deeply segregated town of Elba, Alabama, where he graduated from high school in 1964, the year of Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Act. He went to Alabama A&M, the historically black university in Huntsville, graduated in 1968, then served in the Marines from 1968 to 1970 (but was mercifully spared Vietnam). Bullard was formed by the civil rights struggle. “I was a sophomore in 1965,” he said. “That was the year of Selma and the bridge. As students, you’re very conscious.” He revered Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker and many others. “You identified with a struggle, and you saw it as your struggle.”

Bullard has written about King’s final campaign, when he went to Memphis in 1968 to march in solidarity with the striking sanitation workers. “I tell my students, ‘If you don’t think garbage is an environmental justice issue, you let the garbage workers go on strike.’”

If environmental justice emerged out of the civil rights struggle, then you could almost say that Bullard’s work, and the movement to which he’s dedicated his life, began there in Memphis—picking up where King’s work was cut short.

* * *

Hilton Kelley drove me up Houston Avenue, through what he calls Old Port Arthur, parallel to the railroad tracks that separate the African-American west side from downtown. “This was the booming area during the heyday of Port Arthur,” he said. As we drove alongside the tracks, Kelley pointed to at least three small grocery stores that had long since gone out of business.

We crossed the tracks and drove past a housing project built in the 1970s. Kelley showed me St. John’s Missionary Baptist Church, where the Rev. Elijah “EJ” James allowed him to hold some of his first organizing meetings. But he’s been asked not to distribute fliers outside some of the churches. Kelly affected an old man’s voice: “‘We can appreciate what you’re doing, son. But don’t pass that out around here.’” He added, “Some of them work at the plants.”

We stopped to see his old high school, now a middle school. I noticed the flag was flying at half-staff and wondered why. We both thought for a moment.

“Oh, it must be for MLK,” Kelley said.

Of course. I had completely forgotten—it was April 4.

“I remember when Martin Luther King was shot,” he said. “You could hear the neighbors crying. So I ran down the street to tell my mother, who was down at the laundromat, and she was already in tears. She’d already heard about it. I was 7 years old. It was a sad day.”

We drove down 14th Street, past the small houses—some in good repair with well-kept front yards, many others in poor condition, some at the point of collapse. A few blocks farther, where the road ends, was Carver Terrace, the housing project where Kelley grew up, a stone’s throw from the Valero refinery. Carver Terrace is empty now, slated for demolition, its residents given housing vouchers with the option to relocate to a new project in another part of town—one at least not directly in harm’s way. The last family had moved out about three weeks earlier, Kelley told me.

We got out and stood among the rows of long, plain-brick, two-story buildings. “If you’d come here six months ago,” Kelley said, “you would’ve seen kids running across the street and playing ball right here.”

I asked him how it felt to see it like this now.

“Oh, man, it’s like The Twilight Zone,” he said. “I’m getting used to it, but I ride by here every day.”

Not fifty yards from Carver Terrace, and even closer to a playground with new play structures, exposed pipes emerged from the berm along the Valero fence. Signs read:Warning: Light Hydrocarbon Pipeline.

Kelley told me that he never thought he’d be doing this work for as long as he has. “But here I am,” he said, “fourteen years down the road, still chopping away at it. New issues keep cropping up. But trust me, I’m no ways tired. What I’ve discovered is that we are a necessary entity in this community. I’m here to stay.”

It was a beautiful day, and Kelley drove with the windows down. A middle-aged woman on the street called out to him. “How’s it going?” Kelley said, genuine warmth in his voice.

“Pretty good,” she called back. “How you doin’?”

“I’m hangin’ on in there, enjoyin’ this day.”

“This is a great community to grow up in,” Kelley told me. “I ran and played up and down these streets. I love the smell in the air right now, the plants growing, the springtime. We’ve got a pretty good day today—don’t have any high emissions levels. I’m lovin’ it. You can smell the flowers.”

* * *

The next morning, I went back on my own and drove around downtown and the west side of Port Arthur. It was overcast now, the gray light altering the mood of the day before, and I was overcome by a need to see the ocean, across Sabine Lake and the coastal marshes on the Louisiana side. So I drove out of Port Arthur on Highway 82, passing still more petrochemical plants along the way, and stopped after half an hour at a row of beach houses built on sturdy pilings. The wind on my face was fresh and welcome, but on the horizon, up and down the coast, I could see the oil platforms. No escape.

Heading back into Port Arthur, crossing the wide channel at the mouth of Sabine Lake, I drove over the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Bridge. As I crested its steep ascent, the Valero and Motiva refineries were spread out in front of me. The dystopian petrochemical landscape stretched into the distance, and I caught my breath at the sight of it as I descended.

What are we fighting for? What are any of us who care about climate justice fighting for? What does “climate justice” mean in the face of the dehumanizing, world-devouring carbon-industrial machine, of which we ourselves are a part? What does it mean in the face of the latest science—which keeps telling us, in its bloodless language, just how late the hour really is?

In 1967, Martin Luther King published his final book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? In those pages, and in his speeches during those last years, he struggled to reinvigorate and reunite the civil rights movement, which was coming apart at the seams over Black Power and nonviolence, over separatism and integration, over how fast and how hard to push for economic justice and against the war in Vietnam. And while he’s often cast these days as a moderate, it’s important to remember just how radical King was.

Critics—including some of his allies—thought that he should stick to race and civil rights and not address what they considered the “separate issues” of labor, poverty and, most of all, war. But King understood that all of these issues were interconnected—that, at a profound level, they intersected. He saw that the “unholy trinity” of racism, poverty and war—with the threat of nuclear annihilation always in the air—were, at root, one and the same. They are all forms of violence, he argued; they all grow from “man’s inhumanity to man” and must be confronted by an unconditional and universal love.

It seems that movements can reach a critical point at which unity—the need to come together around common principles and a common struggle, and a common understanding of what that struggle is about—becomes all-important. The question now is whether climate justice can be defined broadly enough to encompass everyone—not only our own communities, our own children, but everyone, everywhere, including generations not yet born—in order to keep even the possibility of justice alive on Earth.

Because the only chance we have now is to fight for each other. We have to fight for the person sitting next to us and the person living next door to us, for the person across town and across the tracks from us, and for the person across the continent and across the ocean from us. Because we’re fighting for our humanity. Not simply for our own survival, but for the survival of some legitimate hope for what King called the “beloved community.” Even as we struggle just to survive.

Our fight is against chaos and for community. And it cannot wait. “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today,” King wrote in the final paragraph of his last book. “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.”

It may be too late to prevent catastrophe for countless people. Yet even in the face of all we now know, will it ever be too late to hold on to our humanity?

Brazil builds nuclear submarine to patrol offshore oil (Channel News Asia)

POSTED: 04 Jun 2014 07:15

Brazil is building five submarines to patrol its massive coast, including one powered by an atomic reactor that would put it in the small club of countries with a nuclear sub.

The BNS S34 Tikuna Brazilian diesel-electric powered submarine moored at the navy base in Niteroi, Brazil. (AFP/Yasuyoshi Chiba)

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil is building five submarines to patrol its massive coast, including one powered by an atomic reactor that would put it in the small club of countries with a nuclear sub.

The South American giant is in the process of exploring major oil fields off its shores that could make it one of the world’s top petroleum exporters.

The new submarines aim to protect that resource, said the navy official coordinating the US$10-billion project, Gilberto Max Roffe Hirshfeld.

“The nuclear-propelled submarine is one of the weapons with the greatest power of dissuasion,” he told AFP.

“Brazil has riches in its waters. It’s our responsibility to have strong armed forces. Not to make war, but to avoid war. So that no one tries to take away our riches.”

The new submarines, which will replace Brazil’s aging fleet of five conventional subs, are being built at a sprawling 540,000-square-metre complex in Itaguai, just south of Rio de Janeiro.

The project is a joint venture between the navy, Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht and French state defense firm DCNS.

Brazil and France signed a deal for the project in 2008 under which DCNS is providing building materials and training while Brazil builds up its own submarine industry.

Brazil is developing the nuclear reactor and enriched uranium itself.

The first submarine, a conventional sub called SBR1, is 45-percent complete and scheduled to launch in 2017. The second is in the early stages of construction and is due to launch in 2019.

Work on the nuclear sub, SNBR, is supposed to start in 2017, with a launch target of 2025, the year the project wraps up.

Workers are assembling the submarines in a massive 38-metre-tall hangar, putting together the giant sheets of steel that will form the hulls.

When complete, the nuclear submarine will measure 100 metres long and weigh 6,000 tonnes. Its conventional cousins will be slightly smaller, at 75 metres and 2,000 tonnes.

Currently the only countries to design and build their own nuclear submarines are the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus India, which has completed one and is in the process of building more.

Unlike conventional submarines, which run on electric or diesel engines and have to resurface every 12 to 24 hours to refuel, nuclear submarines run on atomic power and can stay immersed indefinitely.

They can also be outfitted to launch nuclear warheads — though under Brazil’s constitution and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the country is barred from developing atomic weapons.

Its five new submarines will be equipped with conventional torpedos.

Brazil’s navy says the conventional submarines will patrol ports and other strategic points along the country’s 8,500-kilometre coast.

The SNBR will patrol farther away, around the country’s “pre-salt” deepwater oil reserves — estimated at up to 35 billion barrels — and the so-called Blue Amazon, a biodiverse area off the coast with minerals including gold, manganese and limestone.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Brazil had one of the world’s 15 largest defense budgets in 2013, at US$31.5 billion.

Oil in the Malvinas/Falklands: Brazil’s next regional headache? (postwesternworld.com)

2014 MARCH 8

by Oliver Stuenkel

Falkland Islands Penguins 82

Brazil, foreign policy observers often point out, is blessed. Contrary to many other emerging powers such as China or India, it is located in a neighborhood that rarely experiences interstate tension or war. Not only can Brazil live on a relatively small defense budget, while India is the world’s largest arms importer. Brazil can also dedicate considerable time and energy towards extending its global diplomatic reach without constantly being forced to deal with trouble in its neighborhood.

There are few signs that this will change in the near future. Brazil usually engages when political stability in a nearby country is at risk — such as in Paraguay in 1996 and 2012, in Venezuela in 2002 and in Honduras in 2009. Aside from protecting its economic interests, policy makers in Brasília also seek to keep the region free of tension and crises (usually acting through regional institutions such as Mercosur and Unasur) to avoid interference by the United States or any other outside actor. Over the past decade, defending political stability in the region has turned into one of Brazil’s key foreign policy goals.

While recent troubles are usually domestic in nature, involving a sudden impeachment by a president in Paraguay and social unrest in Venezuela, another crisis may be lurking around that corner that, due to its international nature, is likely to give headaches to Brazilian foreign policy makers. While the territorial dispute between Argentina and the United Kingdom is nothing new, significant oil findings around the Malvinas/ Falkland Islands (an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom claimed by Argentina) could significantly sharpen the existing antagonism between the two countries involved.

The head of Argentina’s new Malvinas Secretariat recently announced that firms drilling off the islands’ coasts would be ineligible to exploit shale-oil and gas in Patagonia. Late last year, Argentina’s congress passed a law that imposes prison sentences of up to 15 years and fines of up to $1.5 billion on anyone involved in exploring the islands’ continental shelf without its permission.

Meanwhile, the appointment of a new governor of the islands by the British government led Argentina’s Ambassador to the UK, Alicia Castro, to write an op-ed in The Guardian this week, accusing London to violate international law in this “pending case of decolonization”. She writes that the UK, refusing to resolve the dispute, aims to justify the continued occupation of the islands by invoking the right to self-determination for the current British inhabitants. Yet,

The right of self-determination of peoples is not applicable to any or every human community, but only to “peoples”. In the case of the inhabitants of the Malvinas, we do not have a separate “people”, still less one subjected to colonialism. The British residents of the islands do not have the right to resolve the sovereignty dispute between Argentina and the UK: nobody doubts they are British, and can continue to be so, but the territory in which they live is not. It belongs to Argentina. 

In response, the island’s Chair of the Legislative Assembly, Mike Summers, arguedthat the inhabitants’ approach was “fully in accord with the universal right to self determination set down in the UN Charter.”

The topic continues to appear regularly not only in Argentina, but also in the United Kingdom. In late February, the British media sounded alarm at increases in Argentina’s defense budget and quoted Admiral Lord West, who was at the helm ofHMS Ardent when it was sunk in the 1982 War, saying: “Any major increase in defence expenditure by Argentina must be viewed with concern. I am concerned that, without any ­aircraft carriers, we are incapable of ­recapturing them.” He continued pointing out that Britain’s new carriers will not be operational until 2020 and until then Argentina had a “window of opportunity”.

In August 2013, Argentina’s President took advantage of her country’s term as temporary President of the UN Security Council to address the issue. The region stands firmly behind Argentina – as do most other developing countries. As The Economist reported on the meeting,

…several ministries echoed Ms Fernández’s concerns. On behalf of CELAC Cuba’s foreign minister recognised “Argentina’s legitimate claim on the sovereignty” over the Falklands (and raised the issue of nuclear disarmament, a dig at Britain’s alleged missile-carrying vessels in the South Atlantic). Venezuela’s bemoaned the islands’ “colonial situation”. And their Uruguayan opposite number promoted “a South Atlantic zone of peace”, denouncing what he termed the “illegitimate activities of oil exploitation” in waters near the Falklands.

Britain, on the other hand, frequently points to the last referendum in March 2013, during which more than 99% of the islands’ inhabitants expressed their desire to maintain their current political status:

When the result was announced in Stanley, the capital—which was plastered with union flags crossed with the words “British to the core”—crowds toasted “Her Majesty and the Falklands” and sang “Rule Britannia”. 

For Argentina’s foreign policy makers, the disputed islands has long been a key issue. For neighboring Brazil, all these does not seem to matter much at first glance. When Great Britain’s foreign secretary recently visited Brazil, the issue was not on the agenda. However, massive oil findings in the area would dramatically increase both the islands’ economic importance and make finding a solution to the dispute far more difficult. In the face of tougher Argentine rhetoric, the United Kingdom could  increase its military presence (which currently stands at 1,300 troops backed by four Typhoon jets), complicating Brazil’s maritime strategy in the South Atlantic. If Argentina imposed a full-scale economic blockade of the islands, tension would almost certainly increase further. It surely is in Brazil’s interest to avoid such a scenario.

Proposta anula leilão de exploração de petróleo no campo de Libra (Agência Câmara)

JC e-mail 4883, de 29 de janeiro de 2014

SBPC e ABC defendem mais pesquisas sobre eventuais danos ambientais da exploração do gás de xisto

Tramita na Câmara dos Deputados o Projeto de Decreto Legislativo (PDC) 1289/13, do deputado Chico Alencar (Psol-RJ), que susta a autorização do leilão de exploração de petróleo e gás no campo de Libra (RJ), realizado em outubro de 2013.

O deputado quer cancelar quatro normas que permitiram o leilão do campo onde haverá exploração do pré-sal brasileiro: as resoluções 4/13 e 5/13 do Conselho Nacional de Política Energética; a Portaria 218/13 do Ministério das Minas e Energia e o Edital de Licitação do Campo de Libra.

Com previsão de produção de 8 a 12 bilhões de barris de petróleo, o campo de Libra foi leiloado sob protestos e com forte proteção policial. Apesar da expectativa de participação de até quatro consórcios, houve apenas um, formado pelas empresas Petrobras, Shell, Total, CNPC e CNOOC. Ele venceu o leilão com a proposta de repassar à União 41,65% do excedente em óleo extraído – o percentual mínimo fixado no edital.

Alencar é contra as concessões para exploração de petróleo por considerar que a Petrobras pode explorar sozinha os campos brasileiros. Ele argumenta ainda que há vícios nas normas que permitiram o leilão. “A Agência Nacional do Petróleo publicou o texto final do edital e do contrato referentes ao leilão de Libra antes do parecer do Tribunal de Contas (TCU)”, apontou.

O deputado ressaltou ainda que as denúncias de espionagem estrangeira na Petrobras colocam suspeitas sobre o leilão. “A obtenção ilegal de informações estratégicas da Petrobras beneficia suas concorrentes no mercado e compromete a realização do leilão”, criticou.

Tramitação
A proposta será discutida pelas comissões de Minas e Energia; Finanças e Tributação; e Constituição e Justiça e de Cidadania. Depois, a proposta precisa ser aprovada em Plenário.

Íntegra da proposta:

PDC-1289/2013

(Carol Siqueira/ Agência Câmara)

Manifesto da comunidade científica
SBPC e ABC pedem mais pesquisas sobre eventuais danos ambientais da exploração do gás de xisto – http://www.sbpcnet.org.br/site/artigos-e-manifestos/detalhe.php?p=2011

Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement (New York Times)

By  – JAN. 24, 2014Protesters against the Keystone XL gathered in November across the street from where President Obama attended a fund-raising event in San Francisco. Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Environmentalists have spent the past two years fighting the Keystone XL pipeline: They have built a human chain around the White House, clogged the State Department’s public comment system with more than a million emails and letters, and gotten themselves arrested at protests across the country.

But as bad as they argue the 1,700-mile pipeline would be for the planet, Keystone XL has been a boon to the environmental movement. While it remains unclear whether President Obama will approve the project, both sides agree that the fight has changed American environmental politics.

“I think it would be naïve for any energy infrastructure company to think that this would be a flash in the pan,” said Alexander J. Pourbaix, president of energy and oil pipelines at TransCanada, the company that has been trying to get a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline since 2008.

Environmentalists want to stop the transport of 800,000 barrels a day of heavy crude from oil sands formations in Canada to Texas refineries, and an oil extraction process that emits more greenhouse gases than other forms of production. Proponents of the Keystone XL project say that the oil will come out of the ground with or without a new pipeline and that other methods of transport, like rail, cause more pollution. They point out that TransCanada began operations on Wednesday on a southern pipeline segment that connects to existing pipelines to provide a route from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

The project has raised the profile of activists like Bill McKibben, a former writer for The New Yorker and founder of 350.org, an organization that focuses on climate change. Jeff Swensen for The New York Times

Although some critics say the environmental movement has made a strategic error by focusing so much energy on the pipeline, no one disputes that the issue has helped a new breed of environmental organizations build a mostly young army eager to donate money and time. The seven-year-old email list of 350.org, an organization that focuses on climate change, has more than doubled to 530,000 people since the group began fighting the pipeline in August 2011. In addition, about 76,000 people have signed a “pledge of resistance” sponsored by seven liberal advocacy groups in which they promise to risk arrest in civil disobedience if a State Department analysis, expected this year, points toward approval of the pipeline.

The Keystone XL project has also raised the profile of a diverse generation of environmental leaders, like the activist Bill McKibben, a former writer for The New Yorker and founder of 350.org, and the billionaire venture capitalist Thomas F. Steyer, who is estimated to have contributed at least $1 million to the movement and has starred in four 90-second ads opposing the pipeline. Not least, it has united national and local environmental groups that usually fight for attention and resources.

“Over the last 18 months, I think there was this recognition that stopping the pipeline is, in fact, important,” said Ross Hammond, a senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “But it has also brought a huge number of people into the movement.”

That movement, Mr. McKibben said in an interview, “looks the way we want the energy system to look: not a few big power plants, but a million solar panels all tied together.”

A sign was planted last March in a field in Nebraska. Nati Harnik/Associated Press

Politically, the draw of Keystone XL comes from its physical presence. It is far easier, environmental activists say, to rally people around something as vivid as a pipeline bisecting the United States than, say, around cap-and-trade legislation that would have forced industry to pay a price for its carbon emissions. The legislation failed in Congress in 2009.

“When we’re able to focus on distinct, concrete projects, we tend to win,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “And when we tend to focus on more obscure policies or places where we need action from Congress, we tend to stall, like every other thing tends to stall.”

The pipeline has been a particular hit with small donors, especially as environmental organizations turn more to protests, fund-raisers said. Last year, the Sierra Club raised $1 million in six weeks for a major rally in Washington. About $100,000 of that came from contributions of less than $1,000.

“This is not one of our usual long-term campaigns,” said Jackie Brown, the Sierra Club’s chief advancement officer. “This was an emerging upswelling of support.”

A portion of the Keystone XL pipeline under construction in North Dakota. TransCanada, via Reuters

Wealthier donors are also opening their wallets. Betsy Taylor, a longtime environmental fund-raiser, said her network of contributors was increasingly supporting the more aggressive campaigns run by groups like 350.org and Bold Nebraska, a shift away from the environmental research and policy organizations that have traditionally drawn such contributions.

Keystone XL — the XL stands for express line — would be a shortcut to the Gulf of Mexico as well as an extension of TransCanada’s existing Keystone pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Nebraska, with small branches to Illinois and Oklahoma. Keystone XL would be a far more direct route across the United States. Keystone consists of a three-foot-diameter pipe that is three feet underground. Keystone XL would also be three feet in diameter, but four feet underground.

Initially, opposition to Keystone XL consisted of scattered people and groups along the proposed route of the pipeline, including indigenous tribes in Alberta. The fight went national in June 2011 when James E. Hansen, a former NASA climate scientist, wrote an open letter calling the pipeline “game over for the climate” and urged people to write to Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state. (Because the project crosses an international boundary, it is subject to approval by the State Department.)

Mr. McKibben, the author of numerous books about climate, decided to use 350.org to campaign against the pipeline. That fall, he urged his members to commit civil disobedience in front of the White House.

Activists including Michael Brune, right, of the Sierra Club, and the civil rights leader Julian Bond, second from right, tied themselves to a White House gate to protest the Keystone XL. Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

“I remember when I heard the call for civil disobedience, I thought, ‘Yeah, right, you’ll get like 40 people to show up,’ ” said Mr. Hammond of Friends of the Earth. “And then, bam!” Over a two-week period, about 1,200 people were arrested at the White House.

Stephanie Kimball, 30, a Wisconsin dentist, said in a recent telephone interview that she had been “trying to figure out where to jump in” to the environmental cause when a talk by activists arrested in 2011 inspired her to volunteer as a local coordinator for 350.org. She said she was also working to stop a pipeline by the Canadian corporation Enbridge.

To counter the campaign, TransCanada has had to run television and radio ads to promote the jobs that the pipeline could provide. Industry allies like the American Petroleum Institute have also been running ads.

If Mr. Obama approves the Keystone XL pipeline, Mr. Brune of the Sierra Club said, it will be “the Vietnam of his presidency.” But, he added, environmentalists’ efforts will hardly have been for nothing.

“If you lose on this,” said Mike Casey, a consultant on a number of environmental efforts, including Mr. Steyer’s, “this infrastructure doesn’t go away. It remains deployable and passionate.”

A version of this article appears in print on January 25, 2014, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: Pipeline Fight Lifts Environmental Movement.

Peak Oil Is Dead. Long Live Peak Oil! (The Nation)

The eulogies for peak oil came too soon. 

Michael T. Klare

January 9, 2014

Oil rig

A drilling rig near Kennedy, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Among the big energy stories of 2013, “peak oil”—the once-popular notion that worldwide oil production would soon reach a maximum level and begin an irreversible decline—was thoroughly discredited. The explosive development of shale oil and other unconventional fuels in the United States helped put it in its grave.

As the year went on, the eulogies came in fast and furious. “Today, it is probably safe to say we have slayed ‘peak oil’ once and for all, thanks to the combination of new shale oil and gas production techniques,” declared Rob Wile, an energy and economics reporter for Business Insider. Similar comments from energy experts were commonplace, prompting an R.I.P. headline at Time.com announcing, “Peak Oil is Dead.”

Not so fast, though. The present round of eulogies brings to mind the Mark Twain’s famous line: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Before obits for peak oil theory pile up too high, let’s take a careful look at these assertions. Fortunately, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the Paris-based research arm of the major industrialized powers, recently did just that—and the results were unexpected. While not exactly reinstalling peak oil on its throne, it did make clear that much of the talk of a perpetual gusher of American shale oil is greatly exaggerated. The exploitation of those shale reserves may delay the onset of peak oil for a year or so, the agency’s experts noted, but the long-term picture “has not changed much with the arrival of [shale oil].”

The IEA’s take on this subject is especially noteworthy because its assertion only a year earlier that the US would overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s number one oil producer sparked the “peak oil is dead” deluge in the first place. Writing in the 2012 edition of its World Energy Outlook, the agency claimed not only that “the United States is projected to become the largest global oil producer” by around 2020, but also that with US shale production and Canadian tar sands coming online, “North America becomes a net oil exporter around 2030.”

That November 2012 report highlighted the use of advanced production technologies—notably horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)—to extract oil and natural gas from once inaccessible rock, especially shale. It also covered the accelerating exploitation of Canada’s bitumen (tar sands or oil sands), another resource previously considered too forbidding to be economical to develop. With the output of these and other “unconventional” fuels set to explode in the years ahead, the report then suggested, the long awaited peak of world oil production could be pushed far into the future.

The release of the 2012 edition of World Energy Outlook triggered a global frenzy of speculative reporting, much of it announcing a new era of American energy abundance. “Saudi America” was the headline over one such hosanna in the Wall Street Journal. Citing the new IEA study, that paper heralded a coming “US energy boom” driven by “technological innovation and risk-taking funded by private capital.” From then on, American energy analysts spoke rapturously of the capabilities of a set of new extractive technologies, especially fracking, to unlock oil and natural gas from hitherto inaccessible shale formations. “This is a real energy revolution,” the Journalcrowed.

But that was then. The most recent edition of World Energy Outlook, published this past November, was a lot more circumspect. Yes, shale oil, tar sands, and other unconventional fuels will add to global supplies in the years ahead, and, yes, technology will help prolong the life of petroleum. Nonetheless, it’s easy to forget that we are also witnessing the wholesale depletion of the world’s existing oil fields and so all these increases in shale output must be balanced against declines in conventional production. Under ideal circumstances—high levels of investment, continuing technological progress, adequate demand and prices—it might be possible to avert an imminent peak in worldwide production, but as the latest IEA report makes clear, there is no guarantee whatsoever that this will occur.

Inching Toward the Peak

Before plunging deeper into the IEA’s assessment, let’s take a quick look at peak oil theory itself.

As developed in the 1950s by petroleum geologist M. King Hubbert, peak oil theory holds that any individual oil field (or oil-producing country) will experience a high rate of production growth during initial development, when drills are first inserted into a oil-bearing reservoir. Later, growth will slow, as the most readily accessible resources have been drained and a greater reliance has to be placed on less productive deposits. At this point—usually when about half the resources in the reservoir (or country) have been extracted—daily output reaches a maximum, or “peak,” level and then begins to subside. Of course, the field or fields will continue to produce even after peaking, but ever more effort and expense will be required to extract what remains. Eventually, the cost of production will exceed the proceeds from sales, and extraction will be terminated.

For Hubbert and his followers, the rise and decline of oil fields is an inevitable consequence of natural forces: oil exists in pressurized underground reservoirs and so will be forced up to the surface when a drill is inserted into the ground. However, once a significant share of the resources in that reservoir has been extracted, the field’s pressure will drop and artificial means—water, gas, or chemical insertion—will be needed to restore pressure and sustain production. Sooner or later, such means become prohibitively expensive.

Peak oil theory also holds that what is true of an individual field or set of fields is true of the world as a whole. Until about 2005, it did indeed appear that the globe was edging ever closer to a peak in daily oil output, as Hubbert’s followers had long predicted. (He died in 1989.) Several recent developments have, however, raised questions about the accuracy of the theory. In particular, major private oil companies have taken to employing advanced technologies to increase the output of the reservoirs under their control, extending the lifetime of existing fields through the use of what’s called “enhanced oil recovery,” or EOR. They’ve also used new methods to exploit fields once considered inaccessible in places like the Arctic and deep oceanic waters, thereby opening up the possibility of a most un-Hubbertian future.

In developing these new technologies, the privately owned “international oil companies” (IOCs) were seeking to overcome their principal handicap: most of the world’s “easy oil”—the stuff Hubbert focused on that comes gushing out of the ground whenever a drill is inserted—has already been consumed or is controlled by state-owned “national oil companies” (NOCs), including Saudi Aramco, the National Iranian Oil Company, and the Kuwait National Petroleum Company, among others. According to the IEA, such state companies control about 80 percent of the world’s known petroleum reserves, leaving relatively little for the IOCs to exploit.

To increase output from the limited reserves still under their control—mostly located in North America, the Arctic, and adjacent waters—the private firms have been working hard to develop techniques to exploit “tough oil.” In this, they have largely succeeded: they are now bringing new petroleum streams into the marketplace and, in doing so, have shaken the foundations of peak oil theory.

Those who say that “peak oil is dead” cite just this combination of factors. By extending the lifetime of existing fields through EOR and adding entire new sources of oil, the global supply can be expanded indefinitely. As a result, they claim, the world possesses a “relatively boundless supply” of oil (and natural gas). This, for instance, was the way Barry Smitherman of the Texas Railroad Commission (which regulates that state’s oil industry) described the global situation at a recent meeting of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists.

Peak Technology

In place of peak oil, then, we have a new theory that as yet has no name but might be called techno-dynamism. There is, this theory holds, no physical limit to the global supply of oil so long as the energy industry is prepared to, and allowed to, apply its technological wizardry to the task of finding and producing more of it. Daniel Yergin, author of the industry classics, The Prize andThe Quest, is a key proponent of this theory. He recently summed up the situation this way: “Advances in technology take resources that were not physically accessible and turn them into recoverable reserves.” As a result, he added, “estimates of the total global stock of oil keep growing.”

From this perspective, the world supply of petroleum is essentially boundless. In addition to “conventional” oil—the sort that comes gushing out of the ground—the IEA identifies six other potential streams of petroleum liquids: natural gas liquids; tar sands and extra-heavy oil; kerogen oil (petroleum solids derived from shale that must be melted to become usable); shale oil; coal-to-liquids (CTL); and gas-to-liquids (GTL). Together, these “unconventional” streams could theoretically add several trillion barrels of potentially recoverable petroleum to the global supply, conceivably extending the Oil Age hundreds of years into the future (and in the process, via climate change, turning the planet into an uninhabitable desert).

But just as peak oil had serious limitations, so, too, does techno-dynamism. At its core is a belief that rising world oil demand will continue to drive the increasingly costly investments in new technologies required to exploit the remaining hard-to-get petroleum resources. As suggested in the 2013 edition of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook, however, this belief should be treated with considerable skepticism.

Among the principal challenges to the theory are these:

1. Increasing Technology Costs: While the costs of developing a resource normally decline over time as industry gains experience with the technologies involved, Hubbert’s law of depletion doesn’t go away. In other words, oil firms invariably develop the easiest “tough oil” resources first, leaving the toughest (and most costly) for later. For example, the exploitation of Canada’s tar sands began with the strip-mining of deposits close to the surface. Because those are becoming exhausted, however, energy firms are now going after deep-underground reserves using far costlier technologies. Likewise, many of the most abundant shale oil deposits in North Dakota have now been depleted, requiring an increasing pace of drilling to maintain production levels. As a result, the IEA reports, the cost of developing new petroleum resources will continually increase: up to $80 per barrel for oil obtained using advanced EOR techniques, $90 per barrel for tar sands and extra-heavy oil, $100 or more for kerogen and Arctic oil, and $110 for CTL and GTL. The market may not, however, be able to sustain levels this high, putting such investments in doubt.

2. Growing Political and Environmental Risk: By definition, tough oil reserves are located in problematic areas. For example, an estimated 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil lies in the Arctic, along with 30 percent of its untapped natural gas. The environmental risks associated with their exploitation under the worst of weather conditions imaginable will quickly become more evident—and so, faced with the rising potential for catastrophic spills in a melting Arctic, expect a commensurate increase in political opposition to such drilling. In fact, a recent increase has sparked protests in both Alaska and Russia, including the much-publicized September 2013 attempt by activists from Greenpeace to scale a Russian offshore oil platform—an action that led to their seizure and arrest by Russian commandos. Similarly, expanded fracking operations have provoked a steady increase in anti-fracking activism. In response to such protests and other factors, oil firms are being forced to adopt increasingly stringent environmental protections, pumping up the cost of production further.

3. Climate-Related Demand Reduction: The techno-optimist outlook assumes that oil demand will keep rising, prompting investors to provide the added funds needed to develop the technologies required. However, as the effects of rampant climate change accelerate, more and more polities are likely to try to impose curbs of one sort or another on oil consumption, suppressing demand—and so discouraging investment. This is already happening in the United States, where mandated increases in vehicle fuel-efficiency standards are expected to significantly reduce oil consumption. Future “demand destruction” of this sort is bound to impose a downward pressure on oil prices, diminishing the inclination of investors to finance costly new development projects.

Combine these three factors, and it is possible to conceive of a “technology peak” not unlike the peak in oil output originally envisioned by M. King Hubbert. Such a techno-peak is likely to occur when the “easy” sources of “tough” oil have been depleted, opponents of fracking and other objectionable forms of production have imposed strict (and costly) environmental regulations on drilling operations, and global demand has dropped below a level sufficient to justify investment in costly extractive operations. At that point, global oil production will decline even if supplies are “boundless” and technology is still capable of unlocking more oil every year.

Peak Oil Reconsidered

Peak oil theory, as originally conceived by Hubbert and his followers, was largely governed by natural forces. As we have seen, however, these can be overpowered by the application of increasingly sophisticated technology. Reservoirs of energy once considered inaccessible can be brought into production, and others once deemed exhausted can be returned to production; rather than being finite, the world’s petroleum base now appears virtually inexhaustible.

Does this mean that global oil output will continue rising, year after year, without ever reaching a peak? That appears unlikely. What seems far more probable is that we will see a slow tapering of output over the next decade or two as costs of production rise and climate change—along with opposition to the path chosen by the energy giants—gains momentum. Eventually, the forces tending to reduce supply will overpower those favoring higher output, and a peak in production will indeed result, even if not due to natural forces alone.

Such an outcome is, in fact, envisioned in one of three possible energy scenarios the IEA’s mainstream experts lay out in the latest edition of World Energy Outlook. The first assumes no change in government policies over the next 25 years and sees world oil supply rising from 87 to 110 million barrels per day by 2035; the second assumes some effort to curb carbon emissions and so projects output reaching “only” 101 million barrels per day by the end of the survey period.

It’s the third trajectory, the “450 Scenario,” that should raise eyebrows. It assumes that momentum develops for a global drive to keep greenhouse gas emissions below 450 parts per million—the maximum level at which it might be possible to prevent global average temperatures from rising above two degrees Celsius (and so cause catastrophic climate effects). As a result, it foresees a peak in global oil output occurring around 2020 at about 91 million barrels per day, with a decline to 78 million barrels by 2035.

It would be premature to suggest that the “450 Scenario” will be the immediate roadmap for humanity, since it’s clear enough that, for the moment, we are on a highway to hell that combines the IEA’s first two scenarios. Bear in mind, moreover, that many scientists believe a global temperature increase of even two degrees Celsius would be enough to produce catastrophic climate effects. But as the effects of climate change become more pronounced in our lives, count on one thing: the clamor for government action will grow more intense, and so eventually we’re likely to see some variation of the 450 Scenario take shape. In the process, the world’s demand for oil will be sharply constricted, eliminating the incentive to invest in costly new production schemes.

The bottom line: global peak oil remains in our future, even if not purely for the reasons given by Hubbert and his followers. With the gradual disappearance of “easy” oil, the major private firms are being forced to exploit increasingly tough, hard-to-reach reserves, thereby driving up the cost of production and potentially discouraging new investment at a time when climate change and environmental activism are on the rise.

Peak oil is dead! Long live peak oil!

Notícias relacionadas à polêmica ao redor do gás de xisto

JC e-mail 4870, de 06 de dezembro de 2013

Extensa audiência pública sobre a exploração do gás de xisto causa polêmica

Encontro foi promovido ontem pela Comissão de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável da Câmara dos Deputados

Os constantes debates acerca da exploração do gás de xisto no Brasil continuam gerando polêmica. O cerne da questão gira em torno dos graves impactos sobre o ambiente e a saúde pública. A contaminação de lençóis freáticos e o uso excessivo da água são as maiores críticas feitas pela forma como o gás é explorado.

Hoje é realizada uma técnica chamada fraturação hidráulica. Nesse processo, toneladas de água misturadas a produtos químicos e areia são injetadas na rocha para se extrair o gás, após furos verticais e horizontais. A água usada volta à superfície já poluída por hidrocarbonetos, metais e aditivos químicos.

Para debater a questão, a Comissão de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável da Câmara dos Deputados promoveu mais uma audiência pública, realizada na manhã desta quinta-feira (5/12), em Brasília.

Contra a exploração, o Partido Verde quer impedir o procedimento no Brasil. “Não temos segurança tecnológica para explorar isso. Por que não damos ênfase nas energias renováveis?”, criticou o deputado Sarney Filho (PV/MA),líder do partido na Câmara dos Deputados. Ele afirmou que o PV vai propor uma moratória de cinco anos de prospecção do recurso. O parlamentar informou que o partido tomará a decisão como exemplo de países da União Européia, como a França.

“A exploração do xisto é relativamente nova. Tem ocorrido com bastante intensidade nos países afora. É preciso que se façam estudos cautelosamente”, afirmou o parlamentar. “E o Brasil, ao contrário dos Estados Unidos e França, tem alternativas. Temos produção de energia elétrica limpa, quase toda ela de hidrelétrica, temos potencial da energia solar e eólica, que está sendo subaproveitado”, explicou Sarney Filho.

Segundo Ricardo Baitelo, coordenador da Campanha de Energia da ONG Greenpeace, o uso do gás de xisto não é imprescindível neste momento. “Ainda que a demanda energética nacional aumente mais de duas vezes até 2050, temos fontes renováveis e reservas de gás convencional suficientes para suprir a demanda do setor industrial e elétrico”, defendeu.

Para Carlos Alberto Bocuhy, do Instituto Brasileiro de Proteção Ambiental, o País “não pode embarcar em uma aventura tecnológica (exploração de gás de xisto) ainda sem respostas”.

O professor da Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina Luiz Fernando Scheibe alertou que a exploração de gás não convencional, ou de xisto no País, deve ser submetida a uma avaliação ambiental estratégica antes de autorizada. A avaliação, prevista legalmente, é um instrumento mais amplo do que os estudos de impacto ambiental normalmente utilizados para o licenciamento de empreendimentos energéticos.

Também pesquisador do tema e Conselheiro da Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC), Jailson de Andrade lembrou que a maioria dos estudos sobre o assunto aponta a necessidade de estudos prévios locais para exploração. Segundo ele, ainda há muita controvérsia científica quanto à questão.

“Há um estudo da National Academy of Science, nos Estados Unidos, que mostra que, em 141 poços de água potável na Pensilvânia, quanto mais próximo de áreas de exploração de gás não convencional, maior a quantidade de metano (tóxico e inflamável) na água”, informou Jailson. “A controvérsia na literatura é se isso já existia antes ou se é resultado da perfuração para obtenção de gás”, observou o pesquisador.

E acrescenta “O Brasil está em uma posição muito confortável em relação à energia, sua matriz energética é majoritamente hídrica, renovável, tem um programa de bicombustível que é o melhor do mundo, então porque entrar nesta nova era sem a menor necessidade energética que justifique isto?”.

Nomenclatura
Apesar de chamar de gás de xisto, os especialistas da área esclareceram durante o debate que a questão é em relação ao gás natural extraído de folhelho (shale gas, em inglês). Folheto é uma rocha argilosa de origem sedimentar; xisto é uma rocha metamórfica, de outra origem, portanto. Mas, há uma longa e equivocada tradição brasileira de chamar folhelho (shale) de xisto (schist), daí se falar muito em gás de xisto.

Carta
A Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC) e Academia Brasileira de Ciências (ABC) enviaram uma carta à presidente Dilma Rousseff, solicitando a suspensão da licitação para a exploração do gás de xisto, até que estudos mais conclusivos sobre a questão sejam realizados.

No documento, a presidente da SBPC, Helena Nader, e o presidente da ABC, Jacob Palis, justificam sua preocupação pelo fato de que a exploração econômica do gás de xisto vir sendo muito questionada pelos danos ambientais irreversíveis que pode causar.

Por isso, eles pedem que antes da realização da licitação sejam realizados novos estudos por universidades e institutos de pesquisa públicos, sobre a real potencialidade da utilização do método da fratura hidráulica para a retirada do produto das rochas e os possíveis prejuízos ambientais causados por isso.

Governo
Otaviano da Cruz Pessoa, gerente-geral da Gerência Executiva de Exploração da Petrobras, reconheceu que, de fato, há riscos na exploração de gás de xisto. Mas, segundo ele, são riscos inerentes a qualquer atividade energética, inclusive de gás convencional.

” A única diferença do gás de xisto em relação ao tradicional é que, no caso do xisto, as rochas onde está o gás têm menos fluidos e, por isso, você tem que perfurar milhares de poços”, explicou Pessoa.

De acordo com Luciano Teixeira, representante da Agência Nacional de Petróleo, Gás Natural e Biocombustíveis (ANP), os riscos inerentes à exploração de gás de xisto são reais e devem ser melhor conhecidos e mitigados. Mas, segundo ele, a exploração comercial do produto dependerá de autorização prévia, a partir de critérios que devem ser divulgados pela agência em janeiro em uma nova regulamentação.

“Essa regulamentação tem uma base forte na questão da apresentação de estudos e documentações que venham a demonstrar que aquele operador está em condições de realizar aquela atividade e que o ambiente onde ele vai realizar a atividade vai estar protegido da melhor forma possível”, afirmou.

No entanto, Luciano Teixeira explicou que “E, com isso, conta-se com a apresentação de licenciamentos ambientais, estratégia de utilização e disposição de efluentes gerais e o monitoramento de toda a região com relação à possível degradação dos recursos hídricos.”

Segundo o representante da ANP, a atual fase de pesquisa não depende de autorização prévia. Essa etapa pode levar até oito anos, prorrogáveis por mais seis.

Leilão
Em leilão realizado, no dia 28 de novembro, pela ANP, foram arrematados 72 de 240 blocos ofertados com possibilidade de exploração de gás de xisto.A Petrobras participará da exploração em 70% das áreas, localizadas, principalmente, em Sergipe, Alagoas, Bahia e Paraná. Em um primeiro momento, as empresas estão autorizadas apenas a fazer pesquisas para avaliar a segurança econômica, ambiental e social da exploração.

(Camila Cotta, com informações de Beatriz Bulhões e da Agência Câmara)

Matérias de arquivo do Jornal da Ciência:

SBPC e ABC enviam carta à presidente Dilma Rousseff solicitando a suspensão da licitação para a exploração do gás de xisto
http://www.jornaldaciencia.org.br/Detalhe.php?id=88545

Cientistas querem adiar exploração de xisto
http://www.jornaldaciencia.org.br/Detalhe.php?id=90623

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JC e-mail 4870, de 06 de dezembro de 2013

Petrobras diz que pode devolver blocos de xisto se a exploração for inviável

A Petrobras arrematou 70% dos 72 blocos leiloados pela ANP, na última semana

Questionado por representantes da sociedade civil presentes à audiência pública sobre exploração de gás de xisto, na Comissão de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável, nesta quinta-feira, o representante da Petrobras, Otaviano da Cruz Pessoa, disse que, se a pesquisa indicar insegurança econômica, regulatória ou ambiental, a empresa poderá devolver blocos arrematados para exploração de gás não convencional. A Petrobras arrematou 70% dos 72 blocos leiloados pela Agência Nacional de Petróleo, Gás Natural e Biocombustíveis (ANP), na última semana.

“Embora áreas tenham potencial de existência de recurso não convencional, a Petrobras prioriza o convencional”, disse. “Se, ao fim da fase exploratória (pesquisa), os recursos se mostrarem viáveis economicamente e a produção, segura e regulada, a Petrobras poderá fazer. Caso isso não se verifique, a Petrobras poderá devolver áreas”, completou.

Também questionado por parlamentares e representantes da sociedade civil sobre a necessidade de leilão para gás de xisto neste momento, mesmo com o potencial do país em outras matrizes energéticas, inclusive renováveis, o representante da ANP, Luciano Teixeira, afirmou que, nesse campo, quanto antes os estudos começarem, melhor.

“A gente não tem muito margen para esperar tudo acontecer para realizer estudos. Parte dos estudos implica ver o que temos lá e se ele é viável”, destacou Teixeira.

A audiência pública sobre a exploração de gás de xisto já se encerrou.

(Ana Raquel Macedo/Agência Câmara)

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JC e-mail 4870, de 06 de dezembro de 2013

Conselho Nacional de Recursos Hídricos quer mais pesquisa sobre exploração de xisto

O gás de xisto ou folhelho está armazenado entre rochas no subsolo, geralmente a mais de mil metros de profundidade

O Conselho Nacional de Recursos Hídricos deve votar, no próximo dia 17 de dezembro, moção pedindo mais ênfase nas pesquisas antes que a exploração comercial de gás de xisto (tecnicamente, chamado de gás de folhelho) seja liberada no País. A informação é de Marcelo Medeiros, da Secretaria de Recursos Hídricos do Ministério do Meio Ambiente, que participa de audiência pública sobre o assunto na Comissão de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável, nesta quinta-feira.

De acordo com Medeiros, o edital do leilão da Agência Nacional de Petróleo, Gás Natural e Bicombustíveis (ANP) realizado para exploração do gás não convencional ou de xisto, na última semana, prevê que os estudos devem ser feitos por um período de cinco a oito anos, podendo ser estendido por mais seis anos. Dos 240 blocos oferecidos no leilão, 72 foram arrematados, principalmente em Sergipe, Alagoas, Bahia e Paraná.

“Não somos contra perfuração para pesquisa, tem que haver nível de conhecimento sobre questão. A exploração para pesquisa deve ser feita e, se for o caso, estendida,” avaliou Medeiros.

O representante do Ministério do Meio Ambiente destacou que, no curto prazo, os efeitos da exploração comercial de gás de xisto, a partir da técnica de fraturamento hidráulico de rochas subterrâneas, podem levar à contaminação de lençóis freáticos por gás metano (que é tóxico e explosivo) ou substâncias químicas, inclusive radioativas, usadas no processo. Há, de acordo com Marcelo Medeiros, uma preocupação sobre a quantidade de água gasta no processo e uma indefinição sobre meios seguros de destinação do líquido residual do fraturamento, possivelmente contaminado.

O gás de xisto ou folhelho está armazenado entre rochas no subsolo, geralmente a mais de mil metros de profundidade. Para extraí-lo, as rochas são quebradas ou fraturadas, com a injeção de grandes quantidades de água, areia e produtos químicos.

Mais avaliação
Segundo Fernando Roberto de Oliveira, gerente de Águas Subterrâneas da Superintendência de Implementação e Projetos da Agência Nacional de Águas (ANA), os impactos da obtenção do gás não convencional ainda precisam ser melhor avaliado antes da liberação comercial dos recursos.

“Se não tivermos conhecimento geológica local, a possibilidade de avançarmos com segurança fica comprometida. Temos que conhecer melhor a hidrogeologia”, explicou.

Um dos autores do pedido de realização da audiência, o deputado Sarney Filho (PV-MA) alertou que falta regulamentação sobre o setor. “Não sabemos efeitos que exploração pode causar nos aquíferos, meio ambiente e no social”, disse.

A audiência pública continua no Plenário 8.

(Ana Raquel Macedo/ Agência Câmara)

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JC e-mail 4869, de 05 de dezembro de 2013

Comissão discute exploração de xisto e seus efeitos sobre o meio ambiente

Há preocupação com riscos de vazamentos subterrâneos, contaminação de aquíferos, danos aos reservatórios e possibilidade de abalos sísmicos

A Comissão de Meio Ambiente e Desenvolvimento Sustentável promove audiência pública hoje, às 10 horas, para discutir a exploração do xisto em território nacional e seus efeitos sobre o meio ambiente. O evento foi solicitado pelos deputados Sarney Filho (PV-MA), Penna (SP) e Pedro Uczai (PT-SC).

Os parlamentares estão preocupados com o leilão de gás de xisto proposto pela Agência Nacional de Petróleo, Gás Natural e Biocombustíveis (ANP): “A exploração desse gás no Brasil ocorre no Paraná, mas em pequena escala. Não serve de parâmetro para os projetos em grande escala que estão sendo anunciados pela ANP”.

Também chamado de gás não convencional, o gás de xisto está armazenado entre rochas no subsolo, geralmente a mais de mil metros de profundidade. Para extraí-lo, as rochas são explodidas, ou fraturadas, com a injeção de grandes quantidades de água, areia e produtos químicos. O método é chamado de fraturamento hidráulico.

Aumento do consumo nos EUA
Nos Estados Unidos, o gás de xisto corresponde, hoje, a 16% da demanda nacional de gás natural; em 2000, era apenas 1% desse total. Os empresários estimam que em 2035 essa fonte possa ocupar 46% do consumo de gás nos EUA.

Os deputados argumentam que os problemas ambientais relacionados à exploração do gás de xisto são imensos: “Conforme estudiosos há riscos de vazamentos subterrâneos; contaminação de aquíferos; danos aos reservatórios produtores de água; possibilidade de abalos sísmicos”.

Eles ressaltam que a tecnologia usual faz uso de uma grande quantidade de água e, consequentemente, também gera um grande volume de rejeitos líquidos poluídos: “O processo industrial é extremamente perigoso. Existe a grande possibilidade de explosões, incêndios, vazamentos de fluidos contaminando solo, e danos aos poços perfurados”.

Convidados
Foram convidados para discutir o tema com os deputados:
– o representante da área de Segurança Operacional e Meio Ambiente da Agência Nacional do Petróleo (ANP) Luciano Silva Pinto Teixeira;
– o gerente de Águas Subterrâneas da Superintendência de Implementação e Projetos da Agência Nacional de Águas, Fernando Roberto de Oliveira;
– o gerente geral de Interpretação e Avaliação das Bacias Terrestres da área de Exploração e Produção da Petrobras, Otaviano da Cruz Pessoa;
– o professor da Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina Luiz Fernando Shceibe;
– o especialista em efeitos ambientais na prospecção do gás de xisto Jailson de Andrade;
– o coordenador da Campanha de Energias Renováveis do Greenpeace Brasil, Ricardo Baitelo; e
– o presidente do Instituto Brasileiro de Proteção Ambiental, Carlos Alberto HailerBocuhy.
A audiência ocorrerá no Plenário 8.

(Agência Câmara)

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JC e-mail 4865, de 29 de novembro de 2013

Preocupações de indígenas com exploração de gás e petróleo serão levadas a autoridades

A Funai denunciou que a ANP não levou em conta o relatório feito pela Fundação sobre o leilão de 240 blocos de petróleo e gás que está sendo realizado hoje no Rio

As sugestões e preocupações apresentadas pelos participantes da audiência que discutiu o leilão de blocos de petróleo e gás sobrepostos a terras indígenas e unidades de conservação serão colocadas em um documento e levados a diversas autoridades, como o Ministério de Minas e Energia e a Presidência da República. A iniciativa será apoiada pelo presidente da Comissão de Legislação Participativa, deputado Lincoln Portela (PR-MG).

No debate realizado nesta quinta-feira, encerrado há pouco, a Funai denunciou que a Agência Nacional de Petróleo (ANP) não levou em conta o relatório feito pela Fundação sobre o leilão de 240 blocos de petróleo e gás que está sendo realizado hoje no Rio de Janeiro.

Já representantes de comunidades indígenas disseram estar preocupados com a preservação ambiental das áreas de exploração em que há comunidades indígenas e disseram estar dispostos a entrar em guerra pela causa.

(Silvia Mugnatto/Agência Câmara)

US Energy Independence: Another Pipe Dream, Says Analyst (The Tyee)

Top geoscientist spells out startling depletion rates for high-cost shale gas, tight oil wells.

By Andrew Nikiforuk, 7 Dec 2013, TheTyee.ca

USCrude_600px.jpg

Tank cars offload crude, likely from the North Dakota Bakken formation. Photo by Roy Luck. Creative Commons licensed.

One of Canada’s top energy analysts has warned investors and geologists that “the shale revolution” will not meet conventional expectations as a so-called game-changer in energy production.

Speaking at the Denver meeting of the Geological Society of America and later at Queen’s University and an energy conference in Toronto, David Hughes challenged the assumptions of industry cheerleaders by spelling out startling depletion rates for high-cost unconventional shale and tight oil wells.

“The shale revolution has been a game-changer in that it has temporarily reversed a terminal decline in supplies from conventional sources,” said Hughes in both talks given in late October and early November. “Long-term sustainability is questionable and environmental impacts are a major concern.”

The geoscientist, who now lives on Cortes Island, has studied energy resources in Canada for four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a coal and natural gas specialist.

After reviewing data from unconventional oil wells, Hughes found that these difficult and high-cost operations deplete so rapidly that between 47 to 61 per cent of oil from plays like the Bakken, the first major tight oil play developed, is recovered within the first four years.

Hughes noted that the Bakken and Texas’ Eagle Ford plays, which currently produce two-thirds of U.S. tight oil and are supposed to take the country into energy independence territory, will actually peak in production by 2016 or 2017.

Incredibly, most tight oil wells, such as in North Dakota’s booming oilfields, will become “stripper wells” (producing less than 10 barrels a day) and be ready for abandonment within 11 to 24 years.

Shale no panacea

Shale gas wells follow a similar decline profile. In Louisiana’s Haynesville play and Pennsylvania’s contentious Marcellus fields, producing wells decline by as much as 66 per cent after the first year.

More than 3,500 wells have been drilled in the Haynesville play, which in 2012 was the top-producing shale gas play in the U.S., yet production is falling owing to the 47 per cent yearly field decline rate. The current price of gas is not high enough to justify the 600-plus wells needed annually to offset the steep field decline (each well costs between $8 to $10 million).

HaynesvilleGraph2_600px.jpg

Data from Drilling Info/HPDI.

“The shale revolution has provided a temporary respite from declining oil and gas production, but should not be viewed as a panacea for increasing energy consumption… rather it should be used as an opportunity to create the infrastructure needed for a lower energy throughput to maximize long-term energy security,” warned Hughes.

Hughes also told investors that they can no longer ignore the real and high-cost environmental issues associated with hydraulic fracturing, including high water consumption; groundwater contamination; methane leakage; land fragmentation; air pollution and property devaluation.

“There has been a great deal of pushback by many in the general public, and in state and national governments, to environmental issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing,” he said.

Quebec, Labrador and Newfoundland have declared moratoriums on the technology of high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing. In addition, Canada’s largest private sector union representing a high percentage of energy works has called for a national moratorium.

Although the number of gas-producing wells in Western Canada has reached an all-time high of 230,000 wells, actual gas production has been in decline since 2006.

Hughes also noted that the quality of shale oil and gas plays varies greatly. A few are prolific because they have sweet spots, he said. These special zones are targeted first and lead to an early rise in production followed by a decline, often within five years or less.

As a result, 88 per cent of shale gas production comes from just six of 30 plays, while 70 per cent of all tight oil production comes from two of 21 plays: North Dakota’s Bakken and Texas’ Eagle Ford.

Bad omens for BC

Rapid depletion rates, high capital costs and low market prices do not bode well for British Columbia’s much-hyped plans to export shale gas to Asian markets via a liquefied natural gas (LNG) system that currently does not exist.

“In terms of B.C., the well depletion will be similar. All of the fields outside of the Horn River and Montney plays are in decline,” Hughes told The Tyee in an interview.

“The province would have to nearly quadruple gas production just to satisfy the demands of five LNG terminals.” As many as 12 terminals have been proposed for B.C. “It’s a huge scaling problem.”

The government of Premier Christy Clark has championed LNG development as the province’s new economic miracle by subsidizing geoscience, roads and water for shale gas companies.

It has also lowered royalties. Income from shale gas peaked in the province in 2006 at more than $2 billion and has since fallen to less than $400 million, excluding government subsidies.

BCGasRoyaltyGraph1_600px.jpg

Data: BC Ministry of Finance, Economic and Financial Review and Budget 2013.

The Business Council of British Columbia whose executive council includes representatives from Encana and Kinder Morgan, supports accelerated LNG development on the grounds that global markets will likely not need the gas in the future: “Overall, there is sufficient evidence in the marketplace to suggest that, if the current LNG contract window closes before B.C. is able to secure final investment decisions, there would be potentially lengthy delays before B.C. and Western Canadian natural gas would have another LNG export opportunity.”

Hughes told investors that the shale gas revolution follows a predictable life cycle.

A land-leasing frenzy follows discovery. Then comes a drilling boom, necessitated by lease requirements, which locates, targets and depletes the sweet spots. Gas production grows rapidly and is maintained “despite potentially uneconomic full cycle costs.” (Production provides cash flow even though the well may not have been economic in its own right).

After five years, fields such as the Haynesville reach middle age. At that point geology takes over from technology, and it takes progressively more wells to offset field declines as drilling moves out of sweet spots to lower quality areas.

‘It’s all in the red’

Due to depressed natural gas prices, the shale gas industry has written down billions of dollars worth of assets and refocused drilling on more lucrative liquid rich formations. Other companies have lobbied strongly for government subsidies for LNG exports.

Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, a multi-billion dollar shale gas investor, exclaimed last year that the industry was making no money: “It’s all in the red,” he said.

Royal Dutch Shell has written down $2 billion in shale assets and even put its Texas Eagle Ford properties up for sale. Meanwhile, one of its senior executives has complained that the industry has “over fracked and over drilled.”

Encana, one of the largest holders of shale gas real estate in B.C., has sold off many assets and laid off 20 per cent of its workforce due to poor investments in uneconomic shale gas plays.

The company pioneered the transformation of landscapes across the West, with industrial clusters of wells combining horizontal drilling with multistage hydraulic fracturing. The 10-year-old mining technique blasts large volumes of water, sand and toxic chemicals into dense rock formations up to two miles underground.

Hughes, head of Global Sustainability Research Inc., will be one of the experts addressing the Transatlantic Energy Forum in Washington, D.C. on Monday. The forum brings together energy and climate change experts from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Exploração do gás de xisto ameaça a qualidade da água no Brasil (Jornal da Ciência)

JC e-mail 4872, de 10 de dezembro de 2013

Rocha a ser fraturada encontra-se a algumas centenas de metros abaixo do Aquífero Guarani, que poderia ser contaminado por produtos químicos

De onde vem e para onde vai a água utilizada na exploração do gás de xisto? Essas questões geram frequentes debates, uma vez que produtos químicos são utilizados nesse tipo de extração. De acordo com o conselheiro da Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC), o pesquisador Jailson de Andrade, ainda faltam estudos criteriosos sobre o assunto.

Andrade alerta, sobretudo, para a carência de informações que identifiquem onde as jazidas de gás natural estão localizadas e se estão perto de aqüíferos importantes. “Os estudos realizados até agora são contestados. Não se sabe para onde vai a água contaminada por produtos químicos utilizados na exploração do gás. Ainda não há uma experiência no Brasil que possa se tomar como base. Falta informação”, diz.

Apesar de os dados ainda serem imprecisos, existem companhias ansiosas por entrarem em processos licitatórios de exploração do gás de xisto no Brasil, e outras vislumbrando lucros para despoluir a água e as áreas porventura afetadas pela sua extração. O pesquisador observa, no entanto, que não há tecnologia para despoluir os aqüíferos, caso eles sejam atingidos. Para Andrade, esse é um dos pontos cruciais a serem resolvidos. “A exploração do gás de xisto sem critério afetará a água sob nosso solo, já que a rocha a ser fraturada (o Folhelho Irati) se encontra a algumas centenas de metros abaixo do Aquífero Guarani, na Bacia Geológica do Paraná”, detalhou.

O Guarani é uma das maiores reservas subterrâneas de água doce do mundo. Tem a capacidade de abastecer, de forma sustentável, muitos milhões de habitantes, com trilhões de metros cúbicos de água doce por ano. No Brasil, está no subsolo dos estados de São Paulo, Goiás, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, Paraná, Santa Catarina e Rio Grande do Sul. Na visão de parlamentares, estudiosos e pesquisadores, esta riqueza pode estar ameaçada por uma enorme pressão econômica, a exemplo do que já ocorre nos Estados Unidos.

Experiência norte-americana gerou protestos da população
Correu o mundo a famosa foto em que a água sai da torneira pegando fogo. O fato ocorreu na pequena cidade de Dimock, na Pensilvânia, nos EUA. A explicação para esse estranho fenômeno é simples: trata-se da presença do metano liberado pela exploração de gás de xisto nas redondezas. O metano é um gás tóxico que, supondo proporções iguais, contribui 25 vezes mais do que o dióxido de carbono para o efeito estufa e o aquecimento global.

Além de água contaminada com metano, as áreas vizinhas aos poços de exploração de gás de xisto já tiveram de suportar explosões, contaminação do lençol freático e da terra agricultável, inviabilizando a produção agropecuária, além de pequenos abalos sísmicos, em regiões onde as construções não estão preparadas para tremores de terra.

Após inúmeras manifestações e protestos da população, alguns Estados da América do Norte, como Nova York, Maryland e Ohio nos EUA, Quebec no Canadá, proibiram o “fracking”. Na Europa, a fraturação hidráulica está proibida na França, Bulgária e em diversos governos locais de vários países como Alemanha, Espanha, Irlanda e Holanda.

Fracking causa escassez e contaminação da água
A exploração de xisto utiliza o método de fraturação hidráulica, chamado em inglês de “fracking”. Trata-se de injeção de toneladas de água, sob altíssima pressão, misturada com areia e produtos químicos, com o objetivo de quebrar a rocha e liberar o gás nela aprisionado. Nos EUA, 90% dos poços de gás de xisto são perfurados com a utilização dessa técnica.

Esse tipo de extração utiliza vinte vezes mais recursos hídricos do que as técnicas convencionais. Com isso, as pequenas cidades norte-americanas nos arredores dos poços de gás de xisto enfrentaram problemas de falta d’água para consumo e agricultura, além da contaminação dos aquíferos subterrâneos e das reservas de água potável. Mas a falta de água não é o único problema.

Destaca-se ainda a excessiva circulação de caminhões, a injeção de fluidos que provocam pequenos abalos sísmicos, a ausência de regulamentação, a presença na água de pequenas quantidades de produtos químicos e metais pesados cancerígenos bem como a acumulação de metano que pode provocar explosões.

Gás de folhelho
O gás de folhelho, encontrado em áreas de permeabilidade relativa e também chamado de “gás de xisto”, é um dos três tipos de gases não-convencionais cuja ocorrência não está associada a bolsões de gás armazenados a partir das camadas de petróleo. Estas produzem o gás fóssil convencional, encontrado na plataforma continental e em outras regiões do Brasil. Os demais gases não-convencionais são o confinado (tight gas), com ocorrência em rochas impermeáveis ou de baixa permeabilidade, e o metano associado a camadas de carvão.

Jailson de Andrade explica que é “incorreto” chamar o gás de folhelho de gás de xisto: “O xisto é uma rocha metamórfica que sofreu grandes transformações geológicas, não possibilitando a geração de gás; o folhelho, por sua vez, é uma rocha sedimentar com grande quantidade de matéria orgânica que dá origem ao gás”, diferenciou.

(Camila Cotta, especial para o Jornal da Ciência)

Matérias de arquivo do Jornal da Ciência:
Extensa audiência pública sobre a exploração do gás de xisto causa polêmica
http://www.jornaldaciencia.org.br/Detalhe.php?id=91075

SBPC e ABC enviam carta à presidente Dilma Rousseff solicitando a suspensão da licitação para a exploração do gás de xisto
http://www.jornaldaciencia.org.br/Detalhe.php?id=88545

Cientistas querem adiar exploração de xisto
http://www.jornaldaciencia.org.br/Detalhe.php?id=90623

* * *
10/12/2013 – 10h58

Gás de xisto no Brasil: os problemas que se avizinham

Por Raul do Valle, do ISA

Na última quinta (5/12), houve uma excelente audiência pública, convocada pela Comissão de Meio Ambiente da Câmara dos Deputados, para discutir a exploração de “gás de xisto” no país, cujo pontapé inicial foi dado pela Agência Nacional do Petróleo (ANP) na semana retrasada, após malandramente dar um “drible da vaca” no Ministério Público Federal.

Diferentemente da audiência ocorrida alguns meses atrás no Senado, esta contou com representantes da área ambiental do governo federal (Ministério do Meio Ambiente e Agência Nacional de Águas), além dos representantes da ANP e da Petrobrás (grande vencedora do leilão da semana retrasada). Contou ainda com representantes da academia e da sociedade civil organizada, o que ajudou a qualificar o debate.

O representante da ANP fez duas correções semânticas ao debate que vem ocorrendo na sociedade. A primeira, de que na verdade se trata de “gás de folhelho”, e não de “xisto”, como vem sendo impropriamente falado por nós, leigos. São duas formações geológicas distintas e todos deveríamos saber disso. O geólogo Luiz Fernando Scheibe, professor da Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC), no entanto, nos tranquilizou: embora seja verdade que a formação na qual será usado o faturamento hidráulico (fracking) no Brasil é o folhelho, o termo “gás de xisto” já se popularizou e não há porque abandoná-lo. O importante é que todos saibamos sobre o que estamos falando.

E foi nesse ponto que a segunda correção semântica trazida pela ANP desperta alguma preocupação. Foi afirmado na audiência que a licitação ocorrida prevê que o ganhador da concessão de cada bloco tem direito (e o dever) à “exploração” do gás de xisto, mas que esse termo, no jargão dos petroleiros, não tem o mesmo significado da linguagem comum. Exploração significaria, na verdade, “pesquisa”. Retirar o gás seria, na verdade, “produção”. Segundo Luciano Teixeira, da ANP, essa exploração é necessária para que tenhamos dados das bacias sedimentares nas quais se localiza o gás de forma a, daqui a uma década, poder decidir-se sobre sua efetiva produção.

Por alguns minutos vários respiraram aliviados: estaríamos, felizmente, fazendo uma tempestade num copo d’agua? Estaríamos apenas na fase de pesquisas, coleta de dados, para tomar uma decisão madura mais adiante? Todos esses bons sonhos desapareceram quando uma questão singela foi feita ao advogado da ANP presente à audiência: se estamos tratando apenas de pesquisa, uma vez encontrado o gás e tomada a decisão de que é possível explorá-lo (ou produzi-lo), terá de haver novo leilão? Não. Então terá de haver uma nova autorização pela ANP para a produção? Sim. Essa autorização pode ser negada pela ANP em função dos riscos ambientais mesmo que exista gás no bloco concedido? Não se sabe.

O fato é que os concessionários ganharam o direito à exploração, desde que exista o gás, obviamente. Não tem nada no edital que diga que eles vão simplesmente fazer pesquisas e levantar dados para, em algum momento do futuro, saber se poderão produzir. O leilão ocorreu como todos os anteriores, na regra vigente: se há gás, é teu e pode usá-lo. Se o edital tivesse tido o cuidado de dizer que, nesse caso, não há direito adquirido, que a produção do gás não convencional está sujeito a outra autorização, futura e incerta, boa parte dos problemas poderiam ter se resolvido. Só que não foi assim. Tanto que o advogado da ANP admitiu que, caso a agência não dê autorização para a produção, os concessionários poderiam ter “algum sucesso” em ações de indenização por lucro cessante. Ou seja: a sociedade pagaria a essas empresas para que elas não colocassem os aquíferos de água em risco!

Esse é apenas um dos riscos que se avizinham, o financeiro. Mas o que assusta mesmo são os riscos ambientais e, consequentemente, sociais. Embora os representantes da ANP e da Petrobrás tenham tentado minimizar os impactos desse tipo não convencional de exploração de gás, eles são óbvios, e muito bem documentados. Foi dito que hoje já se faz fraturamento hidráulico em explorações “convencionais”, para “estimular” a produção, o que tornaria a técnica corriqueira. Só que não foi dito que, nas explorações convencionais, feitas em bolsões de gás, os poços são espalhados em alguns quilômetros de distância um do outro, e duram vários anos no mesmo lugar. Já na exploração do xisto, não só o processo de “estímulo” é muito mais severo, como os poços são muitíssimo mais próximos uns dos outros. E, além disso, como a produção declina em poucos anos (o pico ocorre até o segundo ano), essa é uma exploração itinerante, que precisa se deslocar com frequência, criando uma paisagem como a mostrada na foto abaixo, de uma região em exploração nos Estados Unidos.

xisto Gás de xisto no Brasil: os problemas que se avizinham

Foto de região com exploração de gás de xisto nos EUA

Isso faz com que os problemas convencionais da produção de gás se multipliquem em muitas vezes, e o principal é a contaminação de água. O professor da UFSC, estudioso do aquífero Guarani, deixou claro que a exploração intensiva com fraturamento hidráulico (injeção de água misturada com areia e químicos, a altíssima pressão, nos poços perfurados) pode não só criar novas, como reabrir fraturas naturais existentes na rocha que permitiriam o gás entrar em contato com a água, contaminando as reservas subterrâneas. E isso pode ocorrer não só no aquífero Guarani, mas em diversos outros aquíferos situados na área de influência dos blocos leiloados, tão ou mais importantes para o uso humano que aquele.

Não há porque o Brasil se aventurar nesse tipo de exploração apenas porque os EUA já o fazem. Nossa situação é muito distinta. Temos muitas outras fontes, muitas delas subaproveitadas. Em vez de importar uma tecnologia altamente impactante, poderíamos investir todo esse esforço em desenvolvimento nacional de tecnologia solar por exemplo. Mas, independente disso, precisamos de estudos sistematizados para orientar onde e como seria possível a exploração. Uma moratória e a criação de um espaço público para análise e discussão dos dados, que levem a uma Avaliação Ambiental Estratégica, são fundamentais.

Para ver as apresentações feitas na audiência da semana passada, clique aqui.

* Publicado originalmente no site Instituto Socioambiental.

(Instituto Socioambiental)

Is BP “Trolling” Its Facebook Critics? (Aljazeera)

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 13:04

By Dahr JamailAljazeera English

BP.BP Critics using BP America’s Facebook page allege they have been harassed. (Erika Blumenfeld / Al Jazeera)

New Orleans – BP has been accused of hiring internet “trolls” to purposefully attack, harass, and sometimes threaten people who have been critical of how the oil giant has handled its disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil firm hired the international PR company Ogilvy & Mather to run the BP America Facebook page during the oil disaster, which released at least 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf in what is to date the single largest environmental disaster in US history.

The page was meant to encourage interaction with BP, but when people posted comments that were critical of how BP was handling the crisis, they were often attacked, bullied, and sometimes directly threatened.

“Marie” was deeply concerned by the oil spill, and began posting comments on the BP America Facebook page. Today, she asks that she remain anonymous out of what she described to Al Jazeera as “fear for my personal safety should the BP trolls find out that I am the whistleblower in this case”.

In internet slang, a troll is someone who sows online discord by starting arguments or upsetting people, often posting inflammatory messages in an online community, or even issuing physical threats.

Marie sought assistance from the Government Accountability Project (GAP) in Washington DC, and has produced boxes of documents and well-researched information that may show that the people harassing BP’s critics online worked for BP or Ogilvy.

“We’d been hearing of this kind of harassment by BP when we were working on our health project [in the Gulf of Mexico], so it sparked our interest,” GAP investigator Shanna Devine told Al Jazeera. “We saw Marie’s documentation of more serious threats made on the BP page, and decided to investigate.”

According to both Marie and Devine, some of the threats began on the page, but then escalated off the page.

Threats included identifying where somebody lived, an internet troll making reference to having a shotgun and making use of it, and “others just being more derogatory”, according to Devine. “We’ve seen all this documentation and that’s why we thought it was worth bringing to the ombudsman’s office of BP, and we told them we thought some of it even warranted calling the police about.”

Death Threats

“We have thousands of documents regarding communications posted through various Facebook websites,” said certified legal investigator Steve Lockman of Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor. “In addtion, we are in possession of communications between the federal government and the ombudsman’s office of BP regarding the [harassment] Internet communications, and the federal government requesting BP to control the harassment through their Facebook page and their interactions.”

“The harassment communications are not something that BP and their people are not aware of,” Lockman told Al Jazeera. “It’s not a hidden secret that the personal attacks, broadcast abuse, and type-written harassment were happening and continue to go on.”

Marie provided the firm and Al Jazeera with files of complaint letters, computer screenshots of the abuse, and a list of Facebook profiles used by the people who harassed her and others.

According to Marie, the harassment didn’t remain on the BP page. Trolls often followed users to their personal Facebook pages and continued to harass them there.”I was called a lot of names,” Marie added. “I was called a streetwalker and a lot of things like that, and eventually had gun threats.”

“They resorted to very demeaning methods of abuse,” Marie said. “They were racist, sexist, and threatened me and others with legal action and violence. They’ve insinuated that some commenters are ‘child molesters’, and have often used the tactic of mass reporting with the goal of having their targets completely removed from Facebook.”

One troll using the name “Griffin” makes several allusions to gun violence in order to distress and harass users, even going so far as to edit a photo of a BP critic’s pet bird into the crosshairs of a gunsight, before posting the photo online – along with photos of an arsenal of semi-automatic weapons.

Another instance occurred involving “Griffin” and an environmentalist who posted a picture of a rendition of Mother Earth saying “Mother Earth Has Been Waiting for Her Day in Court, BP”. “Griffin” posted a comment to the picture that read, “A few rounds from a .50 cal will stop that b**ch”.

According to Marie, Lockman and GAP, BP’s “astroturfing” efforts and use of “trolls” have been reported as pursuing users’ personal information, then tracking and posting IP addresses of users, contacting their employers, threatening to contact family members, and using photos of critics’ family members to create false Facebook profiles, and even threatening to affect the potential outcome of individual claims.

Marie, along with several other targets of harassment, wrote and sent two letters to BP America, asking the company to respond to the allegations and deal with the matter.  Neither letter received a response, which is why Marie decided to contact GAP, as well as the law firm.

While Marie’s evidence appears to tie Ogilvy and BP together via the trolls, the law firm Lockman works for is investigating further in order to conclusively determine the extent of BP’s involvement.

Spinning the Disaster

Stephen Marino worked for Ogilvy during the BP disaster. BP had been a client of Ogilvy for five years before the spill, and when the disaster occurred, “we were responsible for all the social media for BP during the spill”, Marino said during a lecture he gave at the University of Texas, Austin, on April 19, 2012.

His team, which he called the “digital influence team”, was “responsible for the crisis response”.  Marino told the audience that his job during the BP disaster was to run a ” reputation management campaign ” and gave this specific example of the depths to which Ogilvy worked to maintain a positive appearance for BP:

“We were putting out ads, if you guys remember those ads that came out where it would be Iris in the Gulf of Mexico and she’d be talking about how she grew up there and she wasn’t going to go away,” he explained . “The way we were working with the strategy on that was we would cut the ads one day, we would edit them overnight, we’d air them on Tuesday let’s say, and then we’d look at social media to see what the response was to the ads – and based upon the feedback we were getting on social media, the advertising agency would then go back and re-cut the ads to fix the message to make it resonate more with what the constituents wanted… that was the first key strategy.”

Chris Paulos, an attorney with the firm investigating Marie’s case, believes this is a perfect example of “subversive attempts by corporations to put forward their ideology of what we should think about them, and doing it in a way that is not decipherable to the average person”.

According to Paulos, the public should be concerned about this because we can no longer tell if people online are truly who they say they are, “or are working for a corporation and talking their script to control the dialogue about whatever issue they are addressing”.

“We are in unprecedented times with technology, and [in] the disparity between the power of corporations and autonomous consumers,” Paulos told Al Jazeera. ” Citizens United has basically emboldened corporations with their ability to speak as individuals with First Amendment rights. Ever since that decision, corporations have been outspoken and vigorously protecting themselves while doing it.”

BP’s Response

Billie Garde, BP’s deputy ombudsman, in a letter to the Government Accountability Project dated December 18, 2012, stated clearly that “BP America contracts management of its Facebook page to Ogilvy Public Relations” and added, “Ogilvy manages all of BP America’s social media matters”.

2013 1120-51

2013 1120-52

2013 1120-53

“According to BP America, Ogilvy has a group of 10 individuals in different time zones that perform comment screening of the page,” wrote Garde.

Interestingly, Garde’s letter addressed the fact that, at that time, according to Ogilvy’s data, 91 percent of all the comments on BP’s Facebook page were considered to be “unsupportive” of BP, while only nine percent were considered “supportive”.  She added that “i n previous years, the number of comments that were ‘unsupportive ‘ of BP was larger than the present 91 per cent “.

Her letter stated that Ogilvy follows a “three strike” policy for all comments, “meaning if they find a comment to be in violation of the commenting policy, they delete the comment and record a ‘strike’ against the user, and three strikes means a user is no longer able to comment on the page. It is also noted that Ogilvy will delete offending comments and send a note to the user indicating the comment was inappropriate”.

Garde added: “BP America has informed our office that Ogilvy strictly adheres to the Commenting Policy as stated on the BP America Facebook page. This policy serves as the guidelines that Ogilvy follows when evaluating the appropriateness of comments. Ogilvy does not evaluate a comment with respect to it being a positive or negative statement towards BP. Likewise, they do not delete any comments based on either of these qualifiers.”

According to Garde, BP America’s Director of Employee Concerns Oversight, Mike Wilson, was apprised of the situation. Wilson was provided examples of harassment and was asked if the examples were reviewed by Ogilvy. “The discussion is ongoing, and Mr Wilson is addressing these specific concerns internally, ” Garde added.

A BP spokesman provided the following statement for Al Jazeera: “The BP America Facebook page, and its moderators, do not endorse or dictate any user activity. All users’ comments and actions are their own. BP created the BP America Facebook page to engage the public in an informative conversation about our ongoing commitment to America and to facilitate constructive dialogue for any and all who wish to participate. No users are compensated for participating in the Facebook community. More information on our commenting policy can be found here .”

Marie, however, staunchly believes that BP is responsible for the pro-BP Facebook trolls.

“I have no doubt that they are, and I’ve found the links between the trolls and their friends who work for BP,” she told Al Jazeera. “The Government Accountability Project, through the inquiry they’re conducting for me, is still trying to find out. But we are being stonewalled on the other end, as far as BP doing some type of an internal investigation into these connections that I’ve uncovered.”

According to Marie, the harassment “almost ceased completely at around the same time GAP received Garde’s letter. I say ‘almost’ because at least two of the people who were involved in the prior harassment are still allowed to comment on BP’s page to this day, and [one of those] was still checking on people’s profiles to obtain their state of residence, and would use this against them on the page.”

“Terroristic Threats”

Lockman’s investigation continues, as do efforts of recovering additional documentation and sifting through information on hand that links the trolls to both BP and Ogilvy as well as other subcontracted companies used by BP as creative storytellers.

“The information we possess regarding Marie’s claims, printed out, fills two file boxes, and that does not include all the DVDs which are currently being duplicated at this time,” Lockman said. “It is an unbelievable amount of documentation that has been developed. This documentation, support materials, and information is coming from several different sources. It is like a spider web and we just got started.”

Al Jazeera asked the firm Lockman works for what the possible legal ramifications would be for the alleged actions of BP and Ogilvy.

“What these guys are doing is bordering on illegal,” Paulos told Al Jazeera. “Marie’s allegations are that these guys have made overt acts beyond what they did online, and it does sound like people who’ve been the victims of these actions believe they are in imminent danger of bodily harm, and that can become the basis for a claim of assault.”

Paulos went on to say that if money were involved, like if the threats made by the trolls were against people who had pending claims against BP, or offered to cease the harassment in exchange for funds or other benefits, “it can become a claim of extortion or fraud, depending on how the money is being used”.

Yet these are not the worst possible crimes.

“They [BP/Ogilvy] are obviously trying to silence folks who are opposed or critical of what they are doing,” Paulos claimed. “But it appears as though it has moved into threats that can be considered terroristic threats depending on the intent behind them, so there are a lot of laws they can be treading on, including stalking, and tortious interference with someone’s businesses. I understand they’ve called the workplaces of people on the websites, and depending on what’s being said that may become actionable under US civil law. So there are a lot of ways they could be breaching the law based on the intent of their communication and how that has been received.” Paulos believes Marie’s case is an example of how corporations such as BP use their money and power to take advantage of a lack of adequate legal regulations over the use of internet trolls and vigorous PR campaigns, and that this should give the general public pause.

“Marie’s story shows that corporations do not refrain from cyber-bullying, and they are doing it in a very aggressive fashion.”

Other Harassment

Linda Hooper Bui, an associate professor of entomology at Louisiana State University, experienced a different form of harassment from BP while working on a study about the impact of the oil disaster on spiders and insects.

“BP was desperately trying to control the science, and that was what I ran into,” Bui told Al Jazeera. According to her, BP’s chief science officer “tried to intimidate me”, and the harassment included BP “bullying my people” who were working in the field with her on her study that revealed how “insects and spiders in the oiled areas were completely decimated”.

While collecting data for the study, Bui and her colleagues regularly ran into problems with BP, she said.

“Local sheriffs working under the auspices of BP, as well as personnel with Wildlife and Fisheries, the US Coast Guard – all of these folks working under BP were preventing us from doing our job,” Bui explained. “We were barred from going into areas to collect data where we had previous data.”

Bui said personnel from the USCG, Fish and Wildlife, and even local sheriffs departments, always accompanied by BP staff, worked to prevent her from entering areas to collect data, confiscated her samples, and “if I’d refused to oblige they would have arrested me” – despite her having state permits to carry out her work.

Bui has also been harassed online, by what she thinks was “a BP troll”, but she remained primarily concerned about what BP was doing to block her science. Her frustration about this prompted her to write an opinion article for The New York Times , titled A Gulf Science Blackout .

That is when she received a call from BP.

“August 24, 2010, at 7:15am the morning my op-ed was published, I received a call from BP’s chief science officer who tried to get me to be quiet,” Bui said. “He said he’d solve my problem, and asked me how much money I needed.”

Bui explained to him she was only interested in being allowed to conduct her studies, and was not interested in working with BP, “that I was publishing science and it involved the entire scientific community”, and she never heard back from him.

She believes her method of dealing with the overall situation was a success. “When somebody starts to mess with me, I publicise it and say: ‘Don ‘ t f**k with me,'” she concluded. “And if you do, I’m going to go very public with it, and that’s what I did.”

BP did not respond to Al Jazeera for comment regarding her specific allegation.

GAP’s Shanna Devine told Al Jazeera she believes the onus is on BP to investigate the possibility that there is a connection between the harassment and Ogilvy and BP employees.

“But so far they’ve taken a very hands-off approach,” she explained. “They’ve not taken responsibility and they are not willing to share information with us. So if it’s through BP’s silence that the public is willing to draw their conclusions, I think that is legitimate.”

Hence, Devine concluded: “The BP America Facebook page is not a safe place to be.”

2013 1120-5aInternet troll “Griffin” here complains to Facebook that “D**” is a troll, making up fabrications about BP. “Griffin” posts a link to “D**”‘s profile page, next to a picture of a gun.

2013 1120-5bA second internet troll, “Ken Smith”, is understood to have taken a photo of “D**”‘s pet bird from the BP critic’s profile, printed it out, superimposed a rifle’s crosshairs upon the image – and shot it several times.

2013 1120-5c“Griffin”‘s profile, using an anonymised portrait, also features images of target practice. It is understood that his message has a threatening tone.

2013 1120-5d“Ken Smith”, who posted the previous image of a BP critic’s pet bird being used as target practice, here posts a picture of his considerable arsenal.

2013 1120-5e“Ken Smith” goes on to call BP critics “haters”, and one in particular a “drunken moron”.

2013 1120-5hOthers leave comments on BP America’s Facebook page supportive of the oil giant, claiming that scientists and others critical of the spill are attention-seeking drug users.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

By DAHR JAMAIL

Dahr Jamail, a journalist for Al Jazeera’s Human Rights Department, is the author of “The Will to Resist: Soldiers Who Refuse to Fight in Iraq and Afghanistan,” (Haymarket Books, 2009), and “Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq,” (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from Iraq for more than a year, as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last ten years, and has won the Martha Gellhorn Award for Investigative Journalism, among other awards.

Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions (The Guardian)

Chevron, Exxon and BP among companies most responsible for climate change since dawn of industrial age, figures show

, US environment correspondent

theguardian.com, Wednesday 20 November 2013 16.07 GMT

 Sandbag’s report into the emergence of emissions trading in China : carbon pollutionOil, coal and gas companies are contributing to most carbon emissions, causing climate change and some are also funding denial campaigns. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters
The climate crisis of the 21st century has been caused largely by just 90 companies, which between them produced nearly two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions generated since the dawning of the industrial age, new research suggests.The companies range from investor-owned firms – household names such as Chevron, Exxon and BP – to state-owned and government-run firms.The analysis, which was welcomed by the former vice-president Al Goreas a “crucial step forward” found that the vast majority of the firms were in the business of producing oil, gas or coal, found the analysis, which has been accepted for publication in the journal Climatic Change.”There are thousands of oil, gas and coal producers in the world,” climate researcher and author Richard Heede at the Climate Accountability Institute in Colorado said. “But the decision makers, the CEOs, or the ministers of coal and oil if you narrow it down to just one person, they could all fit on a Greyhound bus or two.”Half of the estimated emissions were produced just in the past 25 years – well past the date when governments and corporations became aware that rising greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of coal and oil were causing dangerous climate change.Many of the same companies are also sitting on substantial reserves of fossil fuel which – if they are burned – puts the world at even greater risk of dangerous climate change.Climate change experts said the data set was the most ambitious effort so far to hold individual carbon producers, rather than governments, to account.The United Nations climate change panel, the IPCC, warned in September that at current rates the world stood within 30 years of exhausting its “carbon budget” – the amount of carbon dioxide it could emit without going into the danger zone above 2C warming. The former US vice-president and environmental champion, Al Gore, said the new carbon accounting could re-set the debate about allocating blame for the climate crisis.Leaders meeting in Warsaw for the UN climate talks this week clashed repeatedly over which countries bore the burden for solving the climate crisis – historic emitters such as America or Europe or the rising economies of India and China.Gore in his comments said the analysis underlined that it should not fall to governments alone to act on climate change.”This study is a crucial step forward in our understanding of the evolution of the climate crisis. The public and private sectors alike must do what is necessary to stop global warming,” Gore told the Guardian. “Those who are historically responsible for polluting our atmosphere have a clear obligation to be part of the solution.”Between them, the 90 companies on the list of top emitters produced 63% of the cumulative global emissions of industrial carbon dioxide and methane between 1751 to 2010, amounting to about 914 gigatonne CO2 emissions, according to the research. All but seven of the 90 wereenergy companies producing oil, gas and coal. The remaining seven were cement manufacturers.The list of 90 companies included 50 investor-owned firms – mainly oil companies with widely recognised names such as Chevron, Exxon, BP , and Royal Dutch Shell and coal producers such as British Coal Corp, Peabody Energy and BHP Billiton.Some 31 of the companies that made the list were state-owned companies such as Saudi Arabia’s Saudi Aramco, Russia’s Gazprom and Norway’s Statoil.Nine were government run industries, producing mainly coal in countries such as China, the former Soviet Union, North Korea and Poland, the host of this week’s talks.Experts familiar with Heede’s research and the politics of climate change said they hoped the analysis could help break the deadlock in international climate talks.”It seemed like maybe this could break the logjam,” said Naomi Oreskes, professor of the history of science at Harvard. “There are all kinds of countries that have produced a tremendous amount of historical emissions that we do not normally talk about. We do not normally talk about Mexico or Poland or Venezuela. So then it’s not just rich v poor, it is also producers v consumers, and resource rich v resource poor.”Michael Mann, the climate scientist, said he hoped the list would bring greater scrutiny to oil and coal companies’ deployment of their remaining reserves. “What I think could be a game changer here is the potential for clearly fingerprinting the sources of those future emissions,” he said. “It increases the accountability for fossil fuel burning. You can’t burn fossil fuels without the rest of the world knowing about it.”Others were less optimistic that a more comprehensive accounting of the sources of greenhouse gas emissions would make it easier to achieve the emissions reductions needed to avoid catastrophic climate change.John Ashton, who served as UK’s chief climate change negotiator for six years, suggested that the findings reaffirmed the central role of fossil fuel producing entities in the economy.”The challenge we face is to move in the space of not much more than a generation from a carbon-intensive energy system to a carbonneutral energy system. If we don’t do that we stand no chance of keeping climate change within the 2C threshold,” Ashton said.”By highlighting the way in which a relatively small number of large companies are at the heart of the current carbon-intensive growth model, this report highlights that fundamental challenge.”Meanwhile, Oreskes, who has written extensively about corporate-funded climate denial, noted that several of the top companies on the list had funded the climate denial movement.”For me one of the most interesting things to think about was the overlap of large scale producers and the funding of disinformation campaigns, and how that has delayed action,” she said.The data represents eight years of exhaustive research into carbon emissions over time, as well as the ownership history of the major emitters.The companies’ operations spanned the globe, with company headquarters in 43 different countries. “These entities extract resources from every oil, natural gas and coal province in the world, and process the fuels into marketable products that are sold to consumers on every nation on Earth,” Heede writes in the paper.The largest of the investor-owned companies were responsible for an outsized share of emissions. Nearly 30% of emissions were produced just by the top 20 companies, the research found.By Heede’s calculation, government-run oil and coal companies in the former Soviet Union produced more greenhouse gas emissions than any other entity – just under 8.9% of the total produced over time. China came a close second with its government-run entities accounting for 8.6% of total global emissions.ChevronTexaco was the leading emitter among investor-owned companies, causing 3.5% of greenhouse gas emissions to date, with Exxon not far behind at 3.2%. In third place, BP caused 2.5% of global emissions to date.The historic emissions record was constructed using public records and data from the US department of energy’s Carbon Dioxide Information and Analysis Centre, and took account of emissions all along the supply chain.The centre put global industrial emissions since 1751 at 1,450 gigatonnes.

Sobre a exploração de xisto no Brasil

JC e-mail 4855, de 13 de novembro de 2013

Cientistas querem adiar exploração de xisto

Ambientalistas e pesquisadores temem os estragos ambientais. Posicionamento da SBPC e da ABC foi registrado em carta

A exploração do gás de xisto nas bacias hidrográficas brasileiras, principalmente na região Amazônica, segue na contramão de países europeus, como França e Alemanha, e algumas regiões dos Estados Unidos, como o estado de Nova York, que vêm proibindo essa atividade, temendo estragos ambientais, mesmo diante de sua viabilidade econômica. Os danos são causados porque, para extrair o gás, os vários tipos de rochas metamórficas, chamadas xisto, são destruídas pelo bombeamento hidráulico ou por uma série de aditivos químicos.

Enquanto a Agência Nacional de Petróleo (ANP) mantém sua decisão de lançar em 28 e 29 de novembro os leilões de blocos de gás de xisto, autoridades de Nova York, um dos pioneiros na exploração desse produto, desde 2007, começam a rever suas políticas internas. Mais radical, a França ratificou, recentemente, a proibição da fratura hidráulica da rocha de xisto, antes mesmo de iniciar a extração desse produto, segundo especialistas.

Cientificamente batizado de gás de “folhelho”, o gás de xisto é conhecido também como “gás não convencional” ou natural. Embora tenha a mesma origem e aplicação do gás convencional, o de xisto se difere no seu processo de extração. Isto é, o produto não consegue sair da rocha naturalmente, ao contrário do gás convencional ou natural, que migra naturalmente das camadas rochosas. Para extrair o gás do xisto, ou seja, finalizar o processo de produção, são usados mecanismos artificiais, como fraturamento da rocha pelo bombeamento hidráulico ou por vários aditivos químicos.

Ao confirmar os leilões, a ANP afirma, via assessoria de imprensa, que a iniciativa cumpre a Resolução CNPE Nº 6 (de 23 de junho deste ano), publicada no Diário Oficial da União. Serão ofertados 240 blocos exploratórios terrestres com potencial para gás natural em sete bacias sedimentares, localizados nos estados do Amazonas, Acre, Tocantins, Alagoas, Sergipe, Piauí, Mato Grosso, Goiás, Bahia, Maranhão, Paraná, São Paulo, totalizando 168.348,42 Km².

Destino

O gás de xisto a ser extraído dessas bacias terá o mesmo destino do petróleo, ou seja, será comercializado como fonte de energia. No Brasil, o gás de xisto pode suprir principalmente o Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina e Paraná, onde a demanda é crescente por gás natural, produto que esses estados importam da Bolívia.

Apesar do potencial econômico, o químico Jailson Bitencourt de Andrade, conselheiro da Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC), reforça seu posicionamento sobre a importância de adiar os leilões da ANP e ampliar as pesquisas sobre os impactos negativos da extração do gás de xisto, a fim de evitar as agressões ao meio ambiente. “É preciso dar uma atenção grande a isso”, alerta o pesquisador, também membro da Sociedade Brasileira de Química (SBQ) e da Academia Brasileira de Ciências (ABC). “Mesmo nos Estados Unidos, onde há uma boa cadeia de logística, capaz de reduzir o custo de exploração do gás de xisto, e mesmo que sua relação custo-benefício seja altíssima, alguns estados já estão revendo suas políticas e criando barreiras para a exploração desse produto.”

O posicionamento da SBPC e da ABC

Em carta (disponível em http://www.sbpcnet.org.br/site/artigos-e-manifestos/detalhe.php?p=2011), divulgada em agosto, a SBPC e ABC expõem a preocupação com a decisão da ANP de incluir o gás de xisto, obtido por fraturamento da rocha, na próxima licitação. Um dos motivos é o fato de a tecnologia de extração desse gás ser embasada em processos “invasivos da camada geológica portadora do gás, por meio da técnica de fratura hidráulica, com a injeção de água e substâncias químicas, podendo ocasionar vazamentos e contaminação de aquíferos de água doce que ocorrem acima do xisto”.

Diante de tal cenário, Andrade volta a defender a necessidade de o Brasil investir mais em conhecimento científico nas bacias que devem ser exploradas, “até mesmo para ter uma noção da atual situação das rochas para poder comparar possíveis impactos dessas bacias no futuro”. Nesse caso, ele adiantou que o governo, por intermédio do Ministério de Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação (MCTI) e da Agência Brasileira da Inovação (Finep), está formando uma rede de pesquisa para estudar os impactos do gás de xisto.

Defensor de estudar todas alternativas de produção de gás para substituir o petróleo futuramente, o pesquisador Hernani Aquini Fernandes Chaves, vice-coordenador do Instituto Nacional de Óleo e Gás (INOG), frisa, em contrapartida, que, apesar de eventuais estragos das rochas de xisto, o uso desse gás “é ambientalmente mais correto” do que o próprio petróleo. “Ele tem menos emissão de gás”, garante. “Precisamos conhecer todas as possibilidades de produção, porque, além de irrigar a economia, o petróleo é um bem finito que acaba um dia. O país é grande. Por isso tem de ver as possibilidades de levar o progresso a todas às áreas.” Ele se refere ao interior do Maranhão, uma das regiões mais pobres do Brasil e com potencial para exploração de gás de xisto.

Sem querer comparar o potencial de produção de gás de xisto dos EUA ao brasileiro, Chaves considera “muito otimista” as estimativas da Agência Internacional de Energia dos EUA feitas para o Brasil, de reservas da ordem de 7,35 trilhões de m³. Segundo Chaves, o INOG ainda não fez estimativas para produção de gás de xisto no território nacional. As bacias produtoras de gás de xisto, disse, ainda não foram comprovadas. Em fase experimental, porém, o gás de xisto já é produzido pela Petrobras na planta de São Mateus do Sul.

Ao falar sobre os danos ambientais provocados pela extração do gás de xisto, Chaves reconhece esse ser “um ponto controverso”. Por ora, ele esclarece que na Europa, sobretudo França e Alemanha, não é permitida a extração do gás de xisto pelo fato de o processo de exploração consumir muita água e prejudicar os aquíferos. Além disso, em Nova York, onde a produção foi iniciada, a exploração também passou a ser questionada. “Os ambientalistas não estão felizes com a produção desse gás”, reconhece. “Na França, por exemplo, não deixaram furar as rochas, mesmo sabendo das estimativas de produção de gás de xisto.”

Esclarecimentos da ANP

Segundo o comunicado da assessoria de imprensa da ANP, as áreas ofertadas nas rodadas de licitações promovidas pela ANP são previamente analisadas quanto à viabilidade ambiental pelo Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama) e pelos órgãos ambientais estaduais competentes. “O objetivo desse trabalho conjunto é eventualmente excluir áreas por restrições ambientais em função de sobreposição com unidades de conservação ou outras áreas sensíveis, onde não é possível ou recomendável a ocorrência de atividades de exploração e produção (E&P) de petróleo e gás natural”.

Para todos os blocos ofertados na 12ª rodada de leilões, segundo o comunicado, houve a “devida manifestação positiva do órgão estadual ambiental” competente. “A ANP, apesar de não regular as questões ambientais, está atenta aos fatos relativos a esse tema, no que tange à produção de petróleo e gás natural no Brasil. Nesse sentido, as melhores práticas utilizadas na indústria de petróleo e gás natural em todo o mundo são constantemente acompanhadas e adotadas pela ANP”, cita o documento.

A ANP acrescenta: “Como o processo regulatório é dinâmico, a ANP tomará as medidas necessárias para, sempre que pertinente, adequar suas normas às questões que se apresentarem nos próximos anos para garantir a segurança nas operações.”

(Viviane Monteiro / Jornal da Ciência)

* * *

JC e-mail 4856, de 14 de novembro de 2013

Seminário promove debate sobre os impactos ambientais da exploração do gás de xisto

Com a participação de Jailson de Andrade, conselheiro da SBPC, o encontro discutiu também a necessidade dessa fonte de energia para o setor energético brasileiro

O Instituto Brasileiro de Análises Sociais e Econômicas (Ibase), o Greenpeace, o ISA, a Fase e o CTI promoveram ontem (13) em São Paulo um seminário, aberto ao público, sobre os impactos socioambientais da exploração do gás de xisto no Brasil. Com a participação de Jailson de Andrade, conselheiro da SBPC, o encontro promoveu o debate sobre questões ambientais envolvidas nesse tipo de exploração mineral e discutiu sua viabilidade. Foi discutida também a necessidade dessa fonte de energia para o setor energético brasileiro, com enfoque nas bacias do Acre, Mato Grosso e no aquífero Guarani. O pesquisador do Ibase Carlos Bittencourt alertou que é preciso prorrogar o leilão para que se possa fazer os estudos necessários antes de autorizar a exploração.

O processo licitatório para a exploração de áreas de gás natural convencionais e não convencionais deve acontece no final deste mês. A Agência Nacional do Petróleo (ANP) vai colocar à disposição 240 blocos exploratórios terrestres distribuídos em 12 estados do país. O xisto, gás não convencional utilizado por usinas hidrelétricas e indústrias é uma fonte de energia que, apesar de conhecida, permaneceu inexplorada durante muitos anos, por falta de tecnologia capaz de tornar viável a sua extração.

Ricardo Baitelo (Greenpeace), Bianca Dieile (FAPP-BG), Conrado Octavio (CTI) e Angel Matsés (Comunidad Nativa Matsés) e a moderação é de Padre Nelito (CNBB). O apoio para o seminário é da Ajuda da Igreja Norueguesa.

(Com informações do Ibase)

Economic Dangers of ‘Peak Oil’ Addressed (Science Daily)

Oct. 16, 2013 — Researchers from the University of Maryland and a leading university in Spain demonstrate in a new study which sectors could put the entire U.S. economy at risk when global oil production peaks (“Peak Oil”). This multi-disciplinary team recommends immediate action by government, private and commercial sectors to reduce the vulnerability of these sectors.

The figure above shows sectors’ importance and vulnerability to Peak Oil. The bubbles represent sectors. The size of the bubbles visualizes the vulnerability of a particular sector to Peak Oil according to the expected price changes; the larger the size of the bubble, the more vulnerable the sector is considered to be. The X axis shows a sector’s importance according to its contribution to GDP and on the Y axis according to its structural role. Hence, the larger bubbles in the top right corner represent highly vulnerable and highly important sectors. In the case of Peak Oil induced supply disruptions, these sectors could cause severe imbalances for the entire U.S. economy. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Maryland)

While critics of Peak Oil studies declare that the world has more than enough oil to maintain current national and global standards, these UMD-led researchers say Peak Oil is imminent, if not already here — and is a real threat to national and global economies. Their study is among the first to outline a way of assessing the vulnerabilities of specific economic sectors to this threat, and to identify focal points for action that could strengthen the U.S. economy and make it less vulnerable to disasters.

Their work, “Economic Vulnerability to Peak Oil,” appears inGlobal Environmental Change. The paper is co-authored by Christina Prell, UMD’s Department of Sociology; Kuishuang Feng and Klaus Hubacek, UMD’s Department of Geographical Sciences, and Christian Kerschner, Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

A focus on Peak Oil is increasingly gaining attention in both scientific and policy discourses, especially due to its apparent imminence and potential dangers. However, until now, little has been known about how this phenomenon will impact economies. In their paper, the research team constructs a vulnerability map of the U.S. economy, combining two approaches for analyzing economic systems. Their approach reveals the relative importance of individual economic sectors, and how vulnerable these are to oil price shocks. This dual-analysis helps identify which sectors could put the entire U.S. economy at risk from Peak Oil. For the United States, such sectors would include iron mills, chemical and plastic products manufacturing, fertilizer production and air transport.

“Our findings provide early warnings to these and related industries about potential trouble in their supply chain,” UMD Professor Hubacek said. “Our aim is to inform and engage government, public and private industry leaders, and to provide a tool for effective Peak Oil policy action planning.”

Although the team’s analysis is embedded in a Peak Oil narrative, it can be used more broadly to develop a climate roadmap for a low carbon economy.

“In this paper, we analyze the vulnerability of the U.S. economy, which is the biggest consumer of oil and oil-based products in the world, and thus provides a good example of an economic system with high resource dependence. However, the notable advantage of our approach is that it does not depend on the Peak-Oil-vulnerability narrative but is equally useful in a climate change context, for designing policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In that case, one could easily include other fossil fuels such as coal in the model and results could help policy makers to identify which sectors can be controlled and/or managed for a maximum, low-carbon effect, without destabilizing the economy,” Professor Hubacek said.

One of the main ways a Peak Oil vulnerable industry can become less so, the authors say, is for that sector to reduce the structural and financial importance of oil. For example, Hubacek and colleagues note that one approach to reducing the importance of oil to agriculture could be to curbing the strong dependence on artificial fertilizers by promoting organic farming techniques and/or reducing the overall distance travelled by people and goods by fostering local, decentralized food economies.

Peak Oil Background and Impact

The Peak Oil dialogue shifts attention away from discourses on “oil depletion” and “stocks” to focus on declining production rates (flows) of oil, and increasing costs of production. The maximum possible daily flow rate (with a given technology) is what eventually determines the peak; thus, the concept can also be useful in the context of other renewable resources.

Improvements in extraction and refining technologies can influence flows, but this tends to lead to steeper decline curves after the peak is eventually reached. Such steep decline curves have also been observed for shale gas wells.

“Shale developments are, so we believe, largely overrated, because of the huge amounts of financial resources that went into them (danger of bubble) and because of their apparent steep decline rates (shale wells tend to peak fast),” according to Dr. Kerschner.

“One important implication of this dialogue shift is that extraction peaks occur much earlier in time than the actual depletion of resources,” Professor Hubacek said. “In other words, Peak Oil is currently predicted within the next decade by many, whereas complete oil depletion will in fact occur never given increasing prices. This means that eventually petroleum products may be sold in liter bottles in pharmacies like in the old days. ”

Journal Reference:

  1. Christian Kerschner, Christina Prell, Kuishuang Feng, Klaus Hubacek. Economic vulnerability to Peak OilGlobal Environmental Change, 2013; DOI:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.08.015

O Brasil na contramão (IPS)

Inter Press Service – Reportagens

11/10/2013 – 09h20

por Fabíola Ortiz, da IPS

transito1 O Brasil na contramão

Tráfego na avenida 23 de Maio, em São Paulo. Foto: Photostock/IPS

Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 11/10/2013 – Nos últimos cinco anos, em plena crise econômica internacional, o Brasil passou a integrar o grupo dos grandes poluidores mundiais, cuja fonte principal de gases-estufa é a queima de combustíveis fósseis. Esse país está assumindo um perfil de contaminação climática próprio do primeiro mundo, segundo o cientista José Marengo, um dos autores do Quinto Informe de Avaliação do Grupo Intergovernamental de Especialistas sobre a Mudança Climática (IPCC), cujo primeiro volume sem editar foi divulgado no dia 30 de setembro.

E isto se deve, em parte, a uma simples razão de fenômeno industrial e de consumo. As isenções de impostos para estimular a venda de automóveis e motocicletas tiveram um efeito positivo no crescimento econômico. Contudo, ao mesmo tempo, criaram um aumento vertiginoso do parque automotivo. A quantidade de automóveis duplicou em uma década, passando de 24,5 milhões em 2001 para 50,2 milhões em 2012, segundo o informe Evolução da Frota de Automóveis e Motos no Brasil – Relatório 2013, divulgado ontem.

As motocicletas tiveram um aumento ainda mais espetacular no mesmo período, passando de 4,5 milhões para 19,9 milhões. O Brasil “terminou 2012 com uma frota total de 76.137.125 veículos automotores. Em 2001, havia aproximadamente 31,8 milhões de unidades. Houve, portanto, aumento de 138,6%”, afirma o documento publicado pelo Observatório das Metrópoles. “Vale recordar que o crescimento populacional do país entre os últimos censos (2000 e 2010) foi de 11,8%”, acrescenta.

“É preocupante, porque sempre criticamos os países desenvolvidos por isso”, observou Marengo, que dirige o Centro de Ciência do Sistema Terrestre do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais. Esse aspecto contrasta com a redução do intenso desmatamento no país, amplamente divulgado pelas autoridades brasileiras.

Em 27 de setembro, quando o IPCC divulgou o Resumo para Responsáveis por Políticas, o secretário de Pesquisa e Desenvolvimento do Ministério de Ciência e Tecnologia, Carlos Nobre, dizia à IPS que este país conseguiu reduzir em 38,4% suas emissões de gases-estufa entre 2005 e 2010, devido à redução no desmatamento da Amazônia.

O Brasil se comprometeu em 2009 a reduzir suas emissões de gases-estufa entre 36,1% e 38,9%, segundo dois cenários de crescimento do produto interno bruto. O governo garante que já avançou 62% rumo a essa meta, graças à acentuada redução do desmatamento. Até 2009, o desmatamento era a causa de 60% da contaminação climática do Brasil, enquanto o uso de combustíveis fósseis estava em segundo lugar. Agora emergem novos problemas.

“Se tivéssemos um sistema de transportes de massa confiável e confortável, as pessoas deixaram seus carros em casa. Mas, viajar em certas horas do dia no metrô de São Paulo ou do Rio de Janeiro (duas das maiores cidades do país) é uma humilhação”, disse Marengo à IPS. “Isso precisa mudar, e a única forma é fomentar um transporte público decente”.

Para o diretor de políticas públicas do Greenpeace Brasil, Sergio Leitão, essa mudança de perfil também coincide com a prioridade que se dá a novos empreendimentos, como a prospecção e exploração das jazidas de petróleo do pré-sal, a mais de sete mil metros de profundidade na plataforma submarina. “Estamos começando a exploração do pré-sal e nossas grandes cidades estão abarrotadas de carros”, pontuou Leitão. Enquanto o mundo caminha para novos modelos energéticos, o Brasil segue na contramão, segundo o ativista, tornando impossível que este país seja “amigo do planeta”, afirmou.

O informe do IPCC diz que as mudanças observadas desde 1950 não têm precedentes e demonstram que a ação do homem é uma causa inequívoca do aquecimento global registrado desde meados do século 20. O informe assinala que a humanidade deve fazer todos os esforços para manter o clima do planeta nas coordenadas do cenário mais otimista, com o aquecimento global não superando os dois graus neste século.

Para conseguir isso, segundo Leitão, as “medidas fundamentais, urgentes e inevitáveis” são mudar o modelo de produção e reduzir drasticamente o consumo de petróleo, gás e carvão. “Nos preocupa o fato de no Brasil o pré-sal ser visto como a grande oportunidade econômica do futuro”, afirmou. Na área energética, os grandes volumes de investimentos são destinados a viabilizar a exploração do petróleo no pré-sal, com até US$ 340 milhões até 2020, ressaltou.

Por outro lado, Leitão disse que “seria preciso adotar um rumo diferente, de pesquisas em energias renováveis e limpas. O Brasil se destaca em abundância de sol e vento. É necessário dinamizar essas vertentes e criar substitutos tecnológicos para os combustíveis fósseis”.

Marengo destacou que, se o mundo inteiro deixasse de emitir gases-estufa hoje, seriam necessários 20 anos para frear as transformações climáticas já desatadas. “O IPCC fala de aproximadamente duas décadas, pois foram centenas de anos acumulando dióxido de carbono (CO2). Os processos de fotossíntese nas florestas podem ajudar a absorver CO2, mas isso não é imediato e exige décadas de inércia”, destacou.

As medidas de mitigação – para reduzir a quantidade de gases lançados na atmosfera – são caras e seus efeitos são de longo prazo, mas são as únicas que permitirão minimizar os impactos futuros, acrescentou Marengo, para quem os impactos mais severos começarão a ser sentidos depois de 2040.

Adaptar-se a essas alterações é possível, mas a mensagem que o IPCC pretende dar à próxima cúpula mundial do clima, que se reunirá em novembro em Varsóvia, é que devem tomar medidas para evitar os cenários mais pessimistas, com elevações da temperatura média acima dos dois graus.

Marengo lamentou que a agenda ambiental tenha passado para segundo plano desde que começou a crise econômica e financeira mundial em 2008. “É impossível um país com uma situação econômica ruim aderir a um tratado ambiental, pois este terá um custo social elevado”, enfatizou.

Envolverde/IPS

Exploração de gás de xisto no Oeste baiano pode causar desastre ambiental sem precedentes (O Expresso)

01/09/2013 

Se confirmada a ocorrência de gás de xisto na grande área do Aquífero Urucuia e usada técnica norte-americana de extração, poderemos contaminar para sempre a água que bebemos e que usamos para irrigar alimentos. Seremos ricos em petróleo e gás e importaremos água para beber de outros estados. A população das chapadas e, de quase toda a Bahia onde existem reservas de xisto, precisa se engajar nesta luta para obstruir o possível uso da técnica de fratura hidráulica na extração do gás. O poço de prospecção instalado na Fazenda Vitória ( veja a foto abaixo), a apenas 10 km de Luís Eduardo Magalhães, é apenas o início do grande licenciamento que a ANP quer realizar, em outubro, em todo o País.

poço

Conforme o Expresso adiantou em 15 de maio está começando, na Fazenda Vitória, a 10 km do centro de Luís Eduardo Magalhães, a instalação de um poço exploratório de gás e petróleo em Luís Eduardo Magalhães. Na internet, ambientalistas já começam a se manifestar sobre o desastre eminente, caso venha a ser encontrado o gás de xisto e usado o processo de hidro-fragmentação, fratura hidráulica ou fracking para a coleta do gás, técnica desenvolvida nos Estados Unidos, que já causa um enorme passivo ambiental. Segundo relatórios de ambientalistas americanos, o processo leva à poluição de lençóis freáticos profundos e a água utilizada para o processo de retirada do gás retorna ao solo altamente poluída, com resquícios de petróleo. Tanto que a maioria dos estados americanos hesita em liberar a exploração do xisto betuminoso pelo processo de fragmentação.

O gás de xisto, também conhecido como shale gás ou gás não convencional, é encontrado em formações sedimentares de baixa permeabilidade e fica aprisionado, característica que por muito tempo inviabilizou sua extração, visto que não havia tecnologia capaz de retirá-lo de dentro das formações de xisto.

Esse paradigma foi quebrado com a técnica de perfuração horizontal dos poços e o advento do fraturamento hidráulico. Processo esse que consiste em bombear, sob alta pressão, uma mistura de água e areia junto com outros produtos químicos no poço a fim de fraturar as formações de xisto, permitindo a liberação do gás.

Nesta sexta, procuramos a assessoria de Comunicação da Petrobrás, no Rio de Janeiro, que indicou a assessoria de Salvador. Que depois de umas 3 horas de silêncio indicou a assessoria de comunicação da ANP, “por ser área exploratória”. A assessoria da ANP não respondeu aos nossos questionamentos, via email, e certamente não irá responder nos próximos dias.

O Aquífero Urucuia em perigo

O Aquífero Urucuia, sobre o qual está sendo montado o poço exploratório de Luís Eduardo Magalhães, distribui-se pelos estados da Bahia, Tocantins, Minas Gerais, Piauí, Maranhão e Goiás, onde ocupa uma área estimada de 120.000 km2. Deste total, cerca de 75-80% estão encravados na região oeste do Estado da Bahia. Em alguns locais, o grande mar subterrâneo de água doce e pura, tem espessura ou altura de até 400 metros. Se a exploração usar efetivamente o processo de hidro-fragmentação, o Aquífero estará definitivamente comprometido.

Em palavras mais sérias: em pouco tempo estaremos bebendo água com acentuado gosto de petróleo. E as águas das veredas, em ponto de afloramento de gás, se incendiarão ao contato de uma chama.

Veja o que diz o site Carbono Brasil 

A fratura hidráulica, ou fracking, processo que consiste na utilização de água sob altíssima pressão para extração de gás xisto, está trazendo diversos problemas ambientais para os Estados Unidos, obtendo a oposição de diversos grupos ambientalistas e da sociedade civil.

Nesta terça-feira (28), foi publicado um estudo do Serviço Geológico dos EUA e do Serviço de Pesca e Vida Selvagem dos EUA que afirma que os fluidos que vazam do processo estão causando a morte de diversas espécies aquáticas na região de Acorn Fork, no estado do Kentucky.

Segundo a pesquisa, os fluidos da fratura hidráulica prejudicam a qualidade da água a ponto de os peixes desenvolverem lesões nas guelras e sofrerem danos no fígado e no baço. O fracking também fez com que o pH da água diminuísse de 7,5 para 5,6, o que significa que água se tornou mais ácida.

Além disso, o processo aumentou a condutividade da água de 200 para 35 mil microsiemens por centímetro, devido aos níveis elevados de metais como ferro, alumínio e outros elementos dissolvidos na água.

Na Califórnia, um desastre

No estado da Califórnia, o fracking também está trazendo transtorno à população. Tanto que uma coalizão de 100 grupos ambientalistas e da sociedade civil acusa a legislação do processo, recém aprovada pelo Senado norte-americano, de ser muito fraca, e pede para que o governador californiano Jerry Brown suspenda a prática imediatamente.“

A verdade é que não há forma comprovada de proteger a Califórnia do fracking além de proibir essa prática inerentemente perigosa”, escreveram os grupos em uma carta enviada a Brown. De acordo com eles, o conjunto de leis “permitiria que as operações de fracking poluíssem permanentemente grandes quantidades da preciosa água da Califórnia.”

Contudo, o governador acredita que, se feito com segurança, o processo pode trazer grandes ganhos econômicos para o estado. “Tenho que equilibrar meu forte compromisso de lidar com as mudanças climáticas e as energias renováveis com o que pode ser uma oportunidade econômica fabulosa”, colocou ele. Ainda assim, Brown não tomou uma posição pública sobre o projeto de lei.

Uma visão gráfica de como se procede a fratura do solo. Na verdade, os lagos subterrâneos não são como aparecem na imagem. A água está diluída dentro do arenito, que a absorve como uma esponja.

Uma visão gráfica de como se procede a fratura do solo. Na verdade, os lagos subterrâneos não são como aparecem na imagem. A água está diluída dentro do arenito, que a absorve como uma esponja.

Blairo Maggi e ANP

O senador Blairo Maggi, em audiência pública, realizada nesta terça-feira, 27, na Comissão de Meio Ambiente do Senado, já interpelou a ANP sobre a exploração do gás de xisto.

Diz o Senador:

“Acreditando nessas novas tecnologias, o Brasil está prestes a começar a exploração do gás de xisto. A Agência Nacional de Petróleo (ANP) marcou para novembro o primeiro leilão de blocos de gás. No entanto, no país a tal exploração ainda está longe de ser consenso no que diz respeito a custo benefício”

“Primeiro é preciso ter certeza da viabilidade econômica da exploração do gás de xisto, já que o sucesso nos Estados Unidos foi resultado de um forte programa governamental, com muitos incentivos. As condições objetivas, incluindo tecnologia, infraestrutura de transporte, mercado consumidor e impactos ambientais, para exploração e consumo no Brasil, recomendam cautela”, alertou o senador.

O Chefe de Gabinete da ANP, Sílvio Jablonski, explicou que o gás não convencional não é uma realidade imediata para o Brasil, mas sim, uma perspectiva para os próximos 10 anos, isso caso se confirmem as possíveis reservas de xisto.

Pontos de divergências

Impactos ambientais e contaminação de lençóis freáticos são fontes constantes de atritos entre ambientalistas, governos e empresas de exploração de gás e petróleo. Blairo Maggi lembrou que no Brasil duas das maiores concentrações do xisto estão sob grandes reservas de água. Uma na Bacia do Parecis onde se formam as bacias hidrográficas Amazônica e Platina, e outra, sob o Aquífero do Guarani.

Para o secretário-executivo de exploração e produção do Instituto Brasileiro de Petróleo, Gás e Biocombustíveis (IBP), Antônio Guimarães, não há risco de contaminação das águas, uma vez que os poços de exploração devem ser feitos a uma profundidade de três mil metros e que seria quase impossível os fluídos do gás escaparem para a superfície.

“A engenharia é fundamental na construção dos poços para a proteção dos lençóis freáticos. As normas da ANP são bastante restritivas, a fiscalização é rígida e as multas são pesadas para qualquer descumprimentoPreservação, engajamento e apoio das comunidades devem ser o foco para o sucesso dessa exploração”, afirmou o secretário.

No entanto, o senador Blairo Maggi frisou que, apesar do Brasil não poder desconsiderar uma fonte de energia dessa magnitude, não se pode da mesma forma ignorar a inexistência de estudos científicos que comprovem a segurança dessa exploração. E, lembrou que o mundo, hoje, está voltado para a busca de energia limpa.

“É preciso antes comprovar que a exploração do gás de xisto será satisfatória principalmente à população, ao meio ambiente e ao Brasil como um todo. Por isso, estamos trazendo à Comissão, técnicos especializados no assunto para dirimir todas as dúvidas e debater o tema. Na próxima rodada vamos convidar os órgãos ambientais e ONG’s que atuam nessa área”, informou o senador.

O mapa do Aquífero Urucuia, 120 mil km² de água subterrânea contínua, ao lado de outros grandes aquíferos do Oeste baiano

O mapa do Aquífero Urucuia, 120 mil km² de água subterrânea contínua, ao lado de outros grandes aquíferos do Oeste baiano

Estamos preparados para o pré-sal e o gás de xisto? (O Estado de São Paulo)

JC e-mail 4817, de 20 de Setembro de 2013.

Em artigo publicado no Estadão, Washington Novaes* reforça o alerta da SBPC sobre os riscos da exploração do gás xisto

Anuncia-se que em novembro vão a leilão áreas brasileiras onde se pretende explorar o gás de xisto, da mesma forma que estão sendo leiloadas áreas do pré-sal para exploração de petróleo no mar. Deveríamos ser prudentes nas duas direções. No pré-sal, não se conhecem suficientemente possíveis consequências de exploração em áreas profundas. No caso do xisto, em vários países já há proibições de exploração ou restrições, por causa das consequências, na sua volta à superfície, da água e de insumos químicos injetados no solo para “fraturar” as camadas de rocha onde se encontra o gás a ser liberado. Mas as razões financeiras, em ambos os casos, são muito fortes e estão prevalecendo em vários lugares, principalmente nos Estados Unidos.

No Brasil, onde a tecnologia para o fraturamento de rochas ainda vai começar a ser utilizada, há um questionamento forte da Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC) e da Academia Brasileira de Ciências, que, em carta à presidente da República (5/8), manifestaram sua preocupação com esse leilão para campos de gás em bacias sedimentares. Nestas, diz a carta, agências dos EUA divulgaram que o Brasil teria reservas de 7,35 trilhões de metros cúbicos em bacias no Paraná, no Parnaíba, no Solimões, no Amazonas, no Recôncavo Baiano e no São Francisco. A Agência Nacional de Petróleo (ANP) estima que as reservas podem ser o dobro disso. Mas, segundo a SBPC e a ANP, falta “conhecimento das características petrográficas, estruturais e geomecânicas” consideradas nesses cálculos, que poderão influir “decisivamente na economicidade de sua exploração”.

E ainda seria preciso considerar os altos volumes de água no processo de fratura de rochas para liberar gás, “que retornam à superfície poluídos por hidrocarbonetos e por outros compostos”, além de metais presentes nas rochas e “dos próprios aditivos químicos utilizados, que exigem caríssimas técnicas de purificação e de descarte dos resíduos finais”. A água utilizada precisaria ser confrontada “com outros usos considerados preferenciais”, como o abastecimento humano. E lembrar ainda que parte das reservas está “logo abaixo do Aquífero Guarani”; a exploração deveria “ser avaliada com muita cautela, já que há um potencial risco de contaminação das águas deste aquífero”.

Diante disso, não deveria haver licitações imediatas, “excluindo a comunidade científica e os próprios órgãos reguladores do país da possibilidade de acesso e discussão das informações”, que “poderão ser obtidas por meio de estudos realizados diretamente pelas universidades e institutos de pesquisa”. Além do maior conhecimento científico das jazidas, os estudos poderão mostrar “consequências ambientais dessa atividade, que poderão superar amplamente seus eventuais ganhos sociais”. É uma argumentação forte, que, em reunião da SBPC no Recife (22 a 27/7), levou a um pedido de que seja sustada a licitação de novembro.

Em muitos outros lugares a polêmica está acesa – como comenta o professor Luiz Fernando Scheibe, da USP, doutor em Mineração e Petrologia (12/9). Como na Grã-Bretanha, onde se argumenta que a tecnologia de fratura, entre muitos outros problemas, pode contribuir até para terremotos. A liberação de metano no processo também pode ser altamente problemática, já que tem efeitos danosos equivalentes a mais de 20 vezes os do dióxido de carbono, embora permaneça menos tempo na atmosfera. E com isso anularia as vantagens do gás de xisto para substituir o uso de carvão mineral. O próprio Programa das Nações Unidas para o Meio Ambiente (Pnuma) tem argumentado que o gás de xisto pode, na verdade, aumentar as emissões de poluentes que contribuem para mudanças do clima.

Na França os protestos têm sido muitos (Le Monde, 16/7) e levado o país a restrições fortes, assim como na Bulgária. Alguns Estados norte-americanos proibiram a tecnologia em seus territórios, mas o governo dos EUA a tem aprovado, principalmente porque o gás de xisto não só é mais barato que o carvão, como reduziu substancialmente as importações de combustíveis fósseis do país, até lhe permitindo exportar carvão excedente. E a Agência Internacional de Energia está prevendo que até 2035 haverá exploração do gás de xisto em mais de 1 milhão de pontos no mundo. Nos EUA, este ano, a produção de gás de xisto estará em cerca de 250 bilhões de metros cúbicos – facilitada pela decisão governamental de liberar a Agência de Proteção Ambiental de examinar possíveis riscos no processo e pela existência de extensa rede de gasodutos (o Brasil só os tem na região leste; gás consumido aqui vem da Bolívia).

Também a China seria potencial usuária do gás, pois 70% de sua energia vem de 3 bilhões de toneladas anuais de carvão (quase 50% do consumo no mundo).Embora tenha 30 trilhões de metros cúbicos de gás de xisto – mais que os EUA -, o problema é que as jazidas se situam em região de montanhas, muito distante dos centros de consumo – o que implicaria um aumento de 50% no custo para o usuário, comparado com o carvão. Por isso mesmo, a China deverá aumentar o consumo do carvão nas próximas décadas (Michael Brooks na New Scientist, 10/8).

E assim vamos, em mais uma questão que sintetiza o dilema algumas vezes já comentado neste espaço: lógica financeira versus lógica “ambiental”, da sobrevivência. Com governos, empresas, pessoas diante da opção de renunciar a certas tecnologias e ao uso de certos bens – por causa dos problemas de poluição, clima, consumo insustentável de recursos, etc. -, ou usá-los por causa das vantagens financeiras imediatas, que podem ser muito fortes.

Cada vez mais, será esse o centro das discussões mais fortes em toda parte, inclusive no Brasil – com repercussões amplas nos campos político e social. Preparemo-nos.

*Washington Novaes é jornalista.

What BP Doesn’t Want You to Know About the 2010 Gulf Spill (The Daily Beast)

The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was even worse than BP wanted us to know.

by  | April 22, 2013 4:45 AM EDT

“It’s as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid.” That’s what Jamie Griffin says the BP man told her about the smelly, rainbow-streaked gunk coating the floor of the “floating hotel” where Griffin was feeding hundreds of cleanup workers during the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Apparently, the workers were tracking the gunk inside on their boots. Griffin, as chief cook and maid, was trying to clean it. But even boiling water didn’t work.

BP Oil Spill
An agonizing 87 days passed before the BP oil spill was finally sealed off. According to US government estimates, 210 million gallons of Louisiana sweet crude had escaped into the Gulf, making this disaster the largest unintentional oil leak in world history. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

“The BP representative said, ‘Jamie, just mop it like you’d mop any other dirty floor,’” Griffin recalls in her Louisiana drawl.

It was the opening weeks of what everyone, echoing President Barack Obama, was calling “the worst environmental disaster in American history.” At 9:45 p.m. local time on April 20, 2010, a fiery explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig had killed 11 workers and injured 17. One mile underwater, the Macondo well had blown apart, unleashing a gusher of oil into the gulf. At risk were fishing areas that supplied one third of the seafood consumed in the U.S., beaches from Texas to Florida that drew billions of dollars’ worth of tourism to local economies, and Obama’s chances of reelection. Republicans were blaming him for mishandling the disaster, his poll numbers were falling, even his 11-year-old daughter was demanding, “Daddy, did you plug the hole yet?”

Griffin did as she was told: “I tried Pine-Sol, bleach, I even tried Dawn on those floors.” As she scrubbed, the mix of cleanser and gunk occasionally splashed onto her arms and face.

Within days, the 32-year-old single mother was coughing up blood and suffering constant headaches. She lost her voice. “My throat felt like I’d swallowed razor blades,” she says.

Then things got much worse.

Like hundreds, possibly thousands, of workers on the cleanup, Griffin soon fell ill with a cluster of excruciating, bizarre, grotesque ailments. By July, unstoppable muscle spasms were twisting her hands into immovable claws. In August, she began losing her short-term memory. After cooking professionally for 10 years, she couldn’t remember the recipe for vegetable soup; one morning, she got in the car to go to work, only to discover she hadn’t put on pants. The right side, but only the right side, of her body “started acting crazy. It felt like the nerves were coming out of my skin. It was so painful. My right leg swelled—my ankle would get as wide as my calf—and my skin got incredibly itchy.”

“These are the same symptoms experienced by soldiers who returned from the Persian Gulf War with Gulf War syndrome,” says Dr. Michael Robichaux, a Louisiana physician and former state senator, who treated Griffin and 113 other patients with similar complaints. As a general practitioner, Robichaux says he had “never seen this grouping of symptoms together: skin problems, neurological impairments, plus pulmonary problems.” Only months later, after Kaye H. Kilburn, a former professor of medicine at the University of Southern California and one of the nation’s leading environmental health experts, came to Louisiana and tested 14 of Robichaux’s patients did the two physicians make the connection with Gulf War syndrome, the malady that afflicted an estimated 250,000 veterans of that war with a mysterious combination of fatigue, skin inflammation, and cognitive problems.

Meanwhile, the well kept hemorrhaging oil. The world watched with bated breath as BP failed in one attempt after another to stop the leak. An agonizing 87 days passed before the well was finally plugged on July 15. By then, 210 million gallons of Louisiana sweet crude had escaped into the Gulf of Mexico, according to government estimates, making the BP disaster the largest accidental oil leak in world history.

In 2010, Pulitzer Prize-winning animator Mark Fiore created this humorous and poignant take on the BP oil spill.

Yet three years later, the BP disaster has been largely forgotten, both overseas and in the U.S. Popular anger has cooled. The media have moved on. Today, only the business press offers serious coverage of what the Financial Times calls “the trial of the century”—the trial now under way in New Orleans, where BP faces tens of billions of dollars in potential penalties for the disaster. As for Obama, the same president who early in the BP crisis blasted the “scandalously close relationship” between oil companies and government regulators two years later ran for reelection boasting about how much new oil and gas development his administration had approved.

Such collective amnesia may seem surprising, but there may be a good explanation for it: BP mounted a cover-up that concealed the full extent of its crimes from public view. This cover-up prevented the media and therefore the public from knowing—and above all, seeing—just how much oil was gushing into the gulf. The disaster appeared much less extensive and destructive than it actually was. BP declined to comment for this article.

That BP lied about the amount of oil it discharged into the gulf is already established. Lying to Congress about that was one of 14 felonies to which BP pleaded guilty last year in a legal settlement with the Justice Department that included a $4.5 billion fine, the largest fine ever levied against a corporation in the U.S.

What has not been revealed until now is how BP hid that massive amount of oil from TV cameras and the price that this “disappearing act” imposed on cleanup workers, coastal residents, and the ecosystem of the gulf. That story can now be told because an anonymous whistleblower has provided evidence that BP was warned in advance about the safety risks of attempting to cover up its leaking oil. Nevertheless, BP proceeded. Furthermore, BP appears to have withheld these safety warnings, as well as protective measures, both from the thousands of workers hired for the cleanup and from the millions of Gulf Coast residents who stood to be affected.

The financial implications are enormous. The trial now under way in New Orleans is wrestling with whether BP was guilty of “negligence” or “gross negligence” for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. If found guilty of “negligence,” BP would be fined, under the Clean Water Act, $1,100 for each barrel of oil that leaked. But if found guilty of “gross negligence”—which a cover-up would seem to imply—BP would be fined $4,300 per barrel, almost four times as much, for a total of $17.5 billion. That large a fine, combined with an additional $34 billion that the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida are seeking, could have a powerful effect on BP’s economic health.

Yet the most astonishing thing about BP’s cover-up? It was carried out in plain sight, right in front of the world’s uncomprehending news media (including, I regret to say, this reporter).

BP Oil Spill
More than half of the Corexit was dispersed by C-130 airplanes, often hitting workers. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

The chief instrument of BP’s cover-up was the same substance that apparently sickened Jamie Griffin and countless other cleanup workers and local residents. Its brand name is Corexit, but most news reports at the time referred to it simply as a “dispersant.” Its function was to attach itself to leaked oil, break it into droplets, and disperse them into the vast reaches of the gulf, thereby keeping the oil from reaching Gulf Coast shorelines. And the Corexit did largely achieve this goal.

But the 1.84 million gallons of Corexit that BP applied during the cleanup also served a public-relations purpose: they made the oil spill all but disappear, at least from TV screens. By late July 2010, the Associated Press and The New York Times were questioning whether the spill had been such a big deal after all. Time went so far as to assert that right-wing talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh “has a point” when he accused journalists and environmentalists of exaggerating the crisis.

But BP had a problem: it had lied about how safe Corexit is, and proof of its dishonesty would eventually fall into the hands of the Government Accountability Project, the premiere whistleblower-protection group in the U.S. The proof? A technical manual BP had received from NALCO, the firm that supplied the Corexit that BP used in the gulf.

An electronic copy of that manual is included in a new report GAPhas issued, “Deadly Dispersants in the Gulf.” On the basis of interviews with dozens of cleanup workers, scientists, and Gulf Coast residents, GAP concludes that the health impacts endured by Griffin were visited upon many other locals as well. What’s more, the combination of Corexit and crude oil also caused terrible damage to gulf wildlife and ecosystems, including an unprecedented number of seafood mutations; declines of up to 80 percent in seafood catch; and massive die-offs of the microscopic life-forms at the base of the marine food chain. GAP warns that BP and the U.S. government nevertheless appear poised to repeat the exercise after the next major oil spill: “As a result of Corexit’s perceived success, Corexit … has become the dispersant of choice in the U.S. to ‘clean up’ oil spills.”

BP Oil Spill
Numerous fishermen on BP’s payroll helped with the cleanup by dispersing Corexit. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

BP’s cover-up was not planned in advance but devised in the heat of the moment as the oil giant scrambled to limit the PR and other damages of the disaster. Indeed, one of the chief scandals of the disaster is just how unprepared both BP and federal and state authorities were for an oil leak of this magnitude. U.S. law required that a response plan be in place before drilling began, but the plan was embarrassingly flawed.

“We weren’t managing for actual risk; we were checking a box,” says Mark Davis, director of the Institute on Water Resources Law and Policy at Tulane University. “That’s how we ended up with a response plan that included provisions for dealing with the impacts to walruses: because [BP] copied word for word the response plans that had been developed after the Exxon-Valdez oil spill [in Alaska, in 1989] instead of a plan tailored to the conditions in the gulf.”

As days turned into weeks and it became obvious that no one knew how to plug the gushing well, BP began insisting that Corexit be used to disperse the leaking oil. This triggered alarms from scientists and from a leading environmental NGO in Louisiana, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN).

The group’s scientific adviser, Wilma Subra, a chemist whose work on environmental pollution had won her a “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation, told state and federal authorities that she was especially concerned about how dangerous the mixture of crude and Corexit was: “The short-term health symptoms include acute respiratory problems, skin rashes, cardiovascular impacts, gastrointestinal impacts, and short-term loss of memory,” she told GAP investigators. “Long-term impacts include cancer, decreased lung function, liver damage, and kidney damage.”

(Nineteen months after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, a scientific study published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Pollution found that crude oil becomes 52 times more toxic when combined with Corexit.)

BP even rebuffed a direct request from the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson, who wrote BP a letter on May 19, asking the company to deploy a less toxic dispersant in the cleanup. Jackson could only ask BP to do this; she could not legally require it. Why? Because use of Corexit had been authorized years before under the federal Oil Pollution Act.

In a recent interview, Jackson explains that she and other officials “had to determine, with less-than-perfect scientific testing and data, whether use of dispersants would, despite potential side effects, improve the overall situation in the gulf and coastal ecosystems. The tradeoff, as I have said many times, was potential damage in the deep water versus the potential for larger amounts of undispersed oil in the ecologically rich coastal shallows and estuaries.” She adds that the presidential commission that later studied the BP oil disaster did not fault the decision to use dispersants.

Knowing that EPA lacked the authority to stop it, BP wrote back to Jackson on May 20, declaring that Corexit was safe. What’s more, BP wrote, there was a ready supply of Corexit, which was not the case with alternative dispersants. (A NALCO plant was located just 30 miles west of New Orleans.)

But Corexit was decidedly not safe without taking proper precautions, as the manual BP got from NALCO spelled out in black and white. The “Vessel Captains Hazard Communication” resource manual, which GAP shared with me, looks innocuous enough. A three-ring binder with a black plastic cover, the manual contained 61 sheets, each wrapped in plastic, that detailed the scientific properties of the two types of Corexit that BP was buying, as well as their health hazards and recommended measures against those hazards.

BP applied two types of Corexit in the gulf. The first, Corexit 9527, was considerably more toxic. According to the NALCO manual, Corexit 9527 is an “eye and skin irritant. Repeated or excessive exposure … may cause injury to red blood cells (hemolysis), kidney or the liver.” The manual adds: “Excessive exposure may cause central nervous system effects, nausea, vomiting, anesthetic or narcotic effects.” It advises, “Do not get in eyes, on skin, on clothing,” and “Wear suitable protective clothing.”

When available supplies of Corexit 9527 were exhausted early in the cleanup, BP switched to the second type of dispersant, Corexit 9500. In its recommendations for dealing with Corexit 9500, the NALCO manual advised, “Do not get in eyes, on skin, on clothing,” “Avoid breathing vapor,” and “Wear suitable protective clothing.”

It’s standard procedure—and required by U.S. law—for companies to distribute this kind of information to any work site where hazardous materials are present so workers can know about the dangers they face and how to protect themselves. But interviews with numerous cleanup workers suggest that this legally required precaution was rarely if ever followed during the BP cleanup. Instead, it appears that BP told NALCO to stop including the manuals with the Corexit that NALCO was delivering to cleanup work sites.

“It’s my understanding that some manuals were sent out with the shipments of Corexit in the beginning [of the cleanup],” the anonymous source tells me. “Then, BP told NALCO to stop sending them. So NALCO was left with a roomful of unused binders.”

Roman Blahoski, NALCO’s director of global communications, says: “NALCO responded to requests for its pre-approved dispersants from those charged with protecting the gulf and mitigating the environmental, health, and economic impact of this event. NALCO was never involved in decisions relating to the use, volume, and application of its dispersant.”

BP Oil Spill
The gulf’s vital tourism industry lost billions as oil poured into the water. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

Misrepresenting the safety of Corexit went hand in hand with BP’s previously noted lie about how much oil was leaking from the Macondo well. As reported by John Rudolf in The Huffington Post, internal BP emails show that BP privately estimated that “the runaway well could be leaking from 62,000 barrels a day to 146,000 barrels a day.” Meanwhile, BP officials were telling the government and the media that only 5,000 barrels a day were leaking.

In short, applying Corexit enabled BP to mask the fact that a much larger amount of oil was actually leaking into the gulf. “Like any good magician, the oil industry has learned that if you can’t see something that was there, it must have ‘disappeared,’” Scott Porter, a scientist and deep-sea diver who consults for oil companies and oystermen, says in the GAP report. “Oil companies have also learned that, in the public mind, ‘out of sight equals out of mind.’ Therefore, they have chosen crude oil dispersants as the primary tool for handling large marine oil spills.”

BP also had a more direct financial interest in using Corexit, argues Clint Guidry, president of the Louisiana Shrimp Association, whose members include not only shrimpers but fishermen of all sorts. As it happens, local fishermen constituted a significant portion of BP’s cleanup force (which numbered as many as 47,000 workers at the height of the cleanup). Because the spill caused the closure of their fishing grounds, BP and state and federal authorities established the Vessels of Opportunity (VoO) program, in which BP paid fishermen to take their boats out and skim, burn, and otherwise get rid of leaked oil. Applying dispersants, Guidry points out, reduced the total volume of oil that could be traced back to BP.

“The next phase of this trial [against BP] is going to turn on how much oil was leaked,” Guidry tells me. [If found guilty, BP will be fined a certain amount for each barrel of oil judged to have leaked.] “So hiding the oil with Corexit worked not only to hide the size of the spill but also to lower the amount of oil that BP may get charged for releasing.”

BP Oil Spill
“You could smell oil and stuff in the air, but on the news they were saying it’s fine.” (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

Not only did BP fail to inform workers of the potential hazards of Corexit and to provide them with safety training and protective gear, according to interviews with dozens of cleanup workers, the company also allegedly threatened to fire workers who complained about the lack of respirators and protective clothing.

“I worked with probably a couple hundred different fishermen on the [cleanup],” Acy Cooper, Guidry’s second in command, tells me in Venice, the coastal town from which many VoO vessels departed. “Not one of them got any safety information or training concerning the toxic materials they encountered.” Cooper says that BP did provide workers with body suits and gloves designed for handling hazardous materials. “But when I’d talk with [the BP representative] about getting my guys respirators and air monitors, I’d never get any response.”

Roughly 58 percent of the 1.84 million gallons of Corexit used in the cleanup was sprayed onto the gulf from C-130 airplanes. The spray sometimes ended up hitting cleanup workers in the face.

“Our boat was sprayed four times,” says Jorey Danos, a 32-year-old father of three who suffered racking coughing fits, severe fatigue, and memory loss after working on the BP cleanup. “I could see the stuff coming out of the plane—like a shower of mist, a smoky color. I could see [it] coming at me, but there was nothing I could do.”

“The next day,” Danos continues, “when the BP rep came around on his speed boat, I asked, ‘Hey, what’s the deal with that stuff that was coming out of those planes yesterday?’ He told me, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ I said, ‘Man, that s–t was burning my face—it ain’t right.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ I said, ‘Well, could we get some respirators or something, because that s–t is bad.’ He said, ‘No, that wouldn’t look good to the media. You got two choices: you can either be relieved of your duties or you can deal with it.’”

Perhaps the single most hazardous chemical compound found in Corexit 9527 is 2-Butoxyethanol, a substance that had been linked to cancers and other health impacts among cleanup workers on the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill in Alaska. According to BP’s own data, 20 percent of offshore workers in the gulf had levels of 2-Butoxyethanol two times higher than the level certified as safe by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Cleanup workers were not the only victims; coastal residents also suffered. “My 2-year-old grandson and I would play out in the yard,” says Shirley Tillman of the Mississippi coastal town Pass Christian. “You could smell oil and stuff in the air, but on the news they were saying it’s fine, don’t worry. Well, by October, he was one sick little fellow. All of a sudden, this very active little 2-year-old was constantly sick. He was having headaches, upper respiratory infections, earaches. The night of his birthday party, his parents had to rush him to the emergency room. He went to nine different doctors, but they treated just the symptoms; they’re not toxicologists.”

BP Oil Spill
Doctors misdiagnosed Danos, a BP clean-up worker who was exposed to Corexit, with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. (Benjamin Lowy/Getty)

“It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up.” Ever since the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, that’s been the mantra. Cover-ups don’t work, goes the argument. They only dig a deeper hole, because the truth eventually comes out.

But does it?

GAP investigators were hopeful that obtaining the NALCO manual might persuade BP to meet with them, and it did. On July 10, 2012, BP hosted a private meeting at its Houston offices. Presiding over the meeting, which is described here publicly for the first time, was BP’s public ombudsman, Stanley Sporkin, joining by telephone from Washington. Ironically, Sporkin had made his professional reputation during the Watergate scandal. As a lawyer with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Sporkin investigated illegal corporate payments to the slush fund that President Nixon used to buy the silence of the Watergate burglars.

Also attending the meeting were two senior BP attorneys; BP Vice President Luke Keller; other BP officials; Thomas Devine, GAP’s senior attorney on the BP case; Shanna Devine, GAP’s investigator on the case; Dr. Michael Robichaux; Dr. Wilma Subra; and Marylee Orr, the executive director of LEAN. The following account is based on my interviews with Thomas Devine, Robichaux, Subra, and Orr. BP declined to comment.

BP officials had previously confirmed the authenticity of the NALCO manual, says Thomas Devine, but now they refused to discuss it, even though this had been one of the stated purposes for the meeting. Nor would BP address the allegation, made by the whistleblower who had given the manual to GAP, that BP had ordered the manual withheld from cleanup work sites, perhaps to maintain the fiction that Corexit was safe.

“They opened the meeting with this upbeat presentation about how seriously they took their responsibilities for the spill and all the wonderful things they were doing to make things right,” says Devine. “When it was my turn to speak, I said that the manual our whistleblower had provided contradicted what they just said. I asked whether they had ordered the manual withdrawn from work sites. Their attorneys said that was a matter they would not discuss because of the pending litigation on the spill.” [Disclosure: Thomas Devine is a friend of this reporter.]

The visitors’ top priority was to get BP to agree not to use Corexit in the future. Keller said that Corexit was still authorized for use by the U.S. government and BP would indeed feel free to use it against any future oil spills.

105790620BL045_oil_spill
Benjamin Lowy

A second priority was to get BP to provide medical treatment for Jamie Griffin and the many other apparent victims of Corexit-and-crude poisoning. This request too was refused by BP.

Robichaux doubts his patients will receive proper compensation from the $7.8 billion settlement BP reached in 2012 with the Plaintiffs’ Steering Committee, 19 court-appointed attorneys who represent the hundreds of individuals and entities that have sued BP for damages related to the gulf disaster. “Nine of the most common symptoms of my patients do not appear on the list of illnesses that settlement says can be compensated, including memory loss, fatigue, and joint and muscular pain,” says Robichaux. “So how are the attorneys going to file suits on behalf of those victims?”

At one level, BP’s cover-up of the gulf oil disaster speaks to the enormous power that giant corporations exercise in modern society, and how unable, or unwilling, governments are to limit that power. To be sure, BP has not entirely escaped censure for its actions; depending on the outcome of the trial now under way in New Orleans, the company could end up paying tens of billions of dollars in fines and damages over and above the $4.5 billion imposed by the Justice Department in the settlement last year. But BP’s reputation appears to have survived: its market value as this article went to press was a tidy $132 billion, and few, if any, BP officials appear likely to face any legal repercussions. “If I would have killed 11 people, I’d be hanging from a noose,” says Jorey Danos. “Not BP. It’s the golden rule: the man with the gold makes the rules.”

As unchastened as anyone at BP is Bob Dudley, the American who was catapulted into the CEO job a few weeks into the gulf disaster to replace Tony Hayward, whose propensity for imprudent comments—“I want my life back,” the multimillionaire had pouted while thousands of gulf workers and residents were suffering—had made him a globally derided figure. Dudley told the annual BP shareholders meeting in London last week that Corexit “is effectively … dishwashing soap,” no more toxic than that, as all scientific studies supposedly showed. What’s more, Dudley added, he himself had grown up in Mississippi and knows that the Gulf of Mexico is “an ecosystem that is used to oil.”

Nor has the BP oil disaster triggered the kind of changes in law and public priorities one might have expected. “Not much has actually changed,” says Mark Davis of Tulane. “It reflects just how wedded our country is to keeping the Gulf of Mexico producing oil and bringing it to our shores as cheaply as possible. Going forward, no one should assume that just because something really bad happened we’re going to manage oil and gas production with greater sensitivity and wisdom. That will only happen if people get involved and compel both the industry and the government to be more diligent.”

And so the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history has been whitewashed—its true dimensions obscured, its victims forgotten, its lessons ignored. Who says cover-ups never work?

Mark Hertsgaard is a fellow at the New American Foundation and the author, most recently, of HOT: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth. This article was reported in partnership with the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute.

How Big Could a Man-Made Earthquake Get? (Popular Mechanics)

Scientists have found evidence that wastewater injection induced a record-setting quake in Oklahoma two years ago. How big can a man-made earthquake get, and will we see more of them in the future?

By Sarah Fecht – April 2, 2013 5:00 PM

hydraulic fracking drilling illustration

Hydraulic fracking drilling illustration. Brandon Laufenberg/Getty Images

In November 2011, a magnitude-5.7 earthquake rattled Prague, Okla., and 16 other nearby states. It flattened 14 homes and many other buildings, injured two people, and set the record as the state’s largest recorded earthquake. And according to a new study in the journal Geology, the event can also claim the title of Largest Earthquake That’s Ever Been Induced by Fluid Injection.”

In the paper, a team of geologists pinpoints the quake’s starting point at less than 200 meters (about 650 feet) from an injection well where wastewater from oil drilling was being pumped into the ground at high pressures. At 5.7 magnitude, the Prague earthquake was about 10 times stronger than the previous record holder: a magnitude-4.8 Rocky Mountain Arsenal earthquake in Colorado in 1967, caused by the U.S. Army injecting a deep well with 148,000 gallons per day of fluid wastes from chemical-weapons testing. So how big can these man-made earthquakes get?

The short answer is that scientists don’t really know yet, but it’s possible that fluid injection could cause some big ones on very rare occasions. “We don’t see any reason that there should be any upper limit for an earthquake that is induced,” says Bill Ellsworth, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey, who wasn’t involved in the new study.

As with natural earthquakes, most man-made earthquakes have been small to moderate in size, and most are felt only by seismometers. Larger quakes are orders of magnitude rarer than small quakes. For example, for every 1000 magnitude-1.0 earthquakes that occur, expect to see 100 magnitude-2.0s, 10 magnitude-3.0s, just 1 magnitude-4.0, and so on. And just as with natural earthquakes, the strength of the induced earthquake depends on the size of the nearby fault and the amount of stress acting on it. Some faults just don’t have the capacity to cause big earthquakes, whether natural or induced.

How do Humans Trigger Earthquakes?

Faults have two major kinds of stressors: shear stress, which makes two plates slide past each other along the fault line, and normal stress, which pushes the two plates together. Usually the normal stress keeps the fault from moving sideways. But when a fluid is injected into the ground, as in Prague, that can reduce the normal stress and make it easier for the fault to slip sideways. It’s as if if you have a tall stack of books on a table, Ellsworth says: If you take half the books away, it’s easier to slide the stack across the table.

“Water increases the fluid pressure in pores of rocks, which acts against the pressure across the fault,” says Geoffrey Abers, a Columbia University geologist and one of the new study’s authors. “By increasing the fluid pressure, you’re decreasing the strength of the fault.”

A similar mechanism may be behind earthquakes induced by large water reservoirs. In those instances, the artificial lake behind a dam causes water to seep into the pore spaces in the ground. In 1967, India’s Koyna Dam caused a 6.5 earthquake that killed 177 people, injured more than 2000, and left 50,000 homeless. Unprecedented seasonal fluctuations in water level behind a dam in Oroville, Calif., are believed to be behind the magnitude-6.1 earthquake that occurred there in 1975.

Extracting a fluid from the ground can also contribute to triggering a quake. “Think about filling a balloon with water and burying it at the beach,” Ellsworth says. “If you let the water out, the sand will collapse inward.” Similarly, when humans remove large amounts of oil and natural gas from the ground, it can put additional stress on a fault line. “In this case it may be the shear stresses that are being increased, rather than normal stresses,” Ellsworth says.

Take the example of the Gazli gas field in Uzbekistan, thought to be located in a seismically inactive area when drilling began in 1962. As drillers removed the natural gas, the pressure in the gas field dropped from 1030 psi in 1962 to 515 psi in 1976, then down to 218 psi in 1985. Meanwhile, three large magnitude-7.0 earthquakes struck: two in 1976 and one in 1984. Each quake had an epicenter within 12 miles of Gazli and caused a surface uplift of some 31 inches. Because the quakes occurred in Soviet-era Uzbekistan, information about the exact locations, magnitudes, and causes are not available. However, a report by the National Research Council concludes that “observations of crustal uplift and the proximity of these large earthquakes to the Gazli gas field in a previously seismically quiet region strongly suggest that they were induced by hydrocarbon extraction.” Extraction of oil is believed to have caused at least three big earthquakes in California, with magnitudes of 5.9, 6.1, and 6.5.

Some people worry that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking‚Äîwherein high-pressure fluids are used to crack through rock layers to extract oil and natural gas‚Äîwill lead to an increased risk of earthquakes. However, the National Research Council report points out that there are tens of thousands of hydrofracking wells in existence today, and there has only been one case in which a “felt” tremor was linked to fracking. That was a 2.3 earthquake in Blackpool, England, in 2011, which didn’t cause any significant damage. Although scientists have known since the 1920s that humans trigger earthquakes, experts caution that it’s not always easy to determine whether a specific event was induced.

Are Human Activities Making Quakes More Common?

Human activities have been linked to increased earthquake frequencies in certain areas. For instance, researchers have shown a strong correlation between the volume of fluid injected into the Rocky Mountain Arsenal well and the frequency of earthquakes in that area.

Geothermal-energy sites can also induce many earthquakes, possibly due to pressure, heat, and volume changes. The Geysers in California is the largest geothermal field in the U.S., generating 725 megawatts of electricity using steam from deep within the earth. Before The Geysers began operating in 1960, seismic activity was low in the area. Now the area experiences hundreds of earthquakes per year. Researchers have found correlations between the volume of steam production and the number of earthquakes in the region. In addition, as the area of the steam wells increased over the years, so did the spatial distribution of earthquakes.

Whether or not human activity is increasing the magnitude of earthquakes, however, is more of a gray area. When it comes to injection wells, evidence suggests that earthquake magnitudes rise along with the volume of injected wastewater, and possibly injection pressure and rate of injection as well, according to a statement from the Department of Interior.

The vast majority of earthquakes caused by The Geysers are considered to be microseismic events—too small for humans to feel. However, researchers from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory note that magnitude-4.0 earthquakes, which can cause minor damage, seem to be increasing in frequency.

The new study says that though earthquakes with a magnitude of 5.0 or greater are rare east of the Rockies, scientists have observed an 11-fold increase between 2008 and 2011, compared with 1976 through 2007. But the increase hasn’t been tied to human activity. “We do not really know what is causing this increase, but it is remarkable,” Abers says. “It is reasonable that at least some may be natural.”

Na avaliação de especialistas, pré-sal deve trazer benefícios econômicos e científicos para o Brasil (Jornal da Ciência)

JC e-mail 4665, de 15 de Fevereiro de 2013.

Viviane Monteiro

O país não pode perder a oportunidade de utilizar os royalties do petróleo para investir em educação e em pesquisas científicas

Apesar dos riscos ambientais, a exploração do petróleo da camada pré-sal deve assegurar ao país, em longo prazo, novos patamares de desenvolvimento, tanto econômico quanto cientifico e tecnológico. Essa é a opinião que prevalece entre especialistas e pesquisadores da área de petróleo do Instituto Alberto Luiz Coimbra de Pós-Graduação e Pesquisa de Engenharia da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Coppe-UFRJ), da Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo (UFES) e da Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo (Poli-USP).

Para eles, o Brasil não pode perder a oportunidade de explorar o pré-sal e nem de utilizar os royalties do petróleo extraído dessa camada profunda para investir em educação e em pesquisas científicas e tecnológicas. Um dos objetivos desses investimentos deve ser produzir energias limpas e renováveis, que devem substituir o combustível fóssil no período “pós-petróleo”, o que deve ocorrer nas próximas cinco décadas, aproximadamente.

Diante da exploração do pré-sal, o diretor de tecnologia e inovação da Coppe/UFRJ, Segen Estefen, diz que o Brasil deve se tornar um dos líderes mundiais na produção de tecnologias de ponta tanto para a exploração de petróleo quanto para o desenvolvimento de energias limpas e renováveis. A exploração do pré-sal, segundo ele acredita, representa uma janela de oportunidades para o Brasil figurar entre os maiores produtores de petróleo do mundo, tornando-se um dos “pelotões” de frente da Organização dos Países Exportadores de Petróleo (OPEP).

Nos últimos dois anos, o país passou da 18ª para a 13ª posição no ranking dos produtores de petróleo, conforme o relatório “Statistical Review of World Energy 2011”, da empresa britânica British Petroleum (BP). Com as descobertas das jazidas do pré-sal, as estimativas para as reservas nacionais de petróleo cresceram de 8 bilhões de barris, por volta de 2006, para algo entre 60 bilhões e 70 bilhões, atualmente. Ao colocar esses números na ponta do lápis, Segen calcula que tais cifras representariam uma receita de US$ 4 trilhões para o país, levando-se em conta o preço atual (US$ 100) do barril de petróleo. Ou seja, é um montante similar ao valor corrente do Produto Interno Bruto (PIB) nacional de R$ 4,143 trilhões, em 2011.

Em termos de reservas de petróleo, o pesquisador e professor Eustáquio Vinícius de Castro, do Laboratório de Petróleo da UFES, concorda que o pré-sal colocará o Brasil entre os cinco maiores produtores do petróleo do mundo, como Arábia Saudita, Estados Unidos e Venezuela. “A tecnologia a ser desenvolvida para atender à exploração do pré-sal deve ser estendida, também, para outras áreas, sobretudo as indústrias metal-mecânica e a de química ambiental”, diz.

Como exemplo, Castro cita equipamentos de perfuração de áreas ultraprofundas capazes de suportar fortes pressões, que podem ser utilizados pela construção civil; e agentes químicos (aditivos) que devem estar presente nos aparelhos para remoção de impurezas e purificação do óleo do pré-sal. “Esses aditivos, inclusive, podem ser utilizados na purificação de água residual, gerada por empresas fabricantes de tinta, na despoluição de rios ou de esgotos urbanos”, acrescenta.

Modelo norueguês – Também defensor da exploração do pré-sal, o professor Ricardo Cabral de Azevedo, do Departamento de Engenharia de Minas e de Petróleo da Poli/USP, aconselha o Brasil a adotar o modelo da Noruega na extração do petróleo da camada pré-sal e evitar a chamada “doença holandesa”. “Outros países que tiveram grandes reservas a explorar e produzir são exemplos do que devemos ou não fazer no Brasil”, explica. “A Holanda, por exemplo, sofreu o que ficou sendo conhecido como ‘doença holandesa’, porque sua economia se tornou excessivamente dependente do petróleo. Já a Noruega se transformou radicalmente e hoje é um dos países com maior IDH [Índice de Desenvolvimento Humano] do mundo”, lembra.

Até então, a Noruega era um dos países mais pobres da Europa, cujas finanças dependiam principalmente de exportações de commodities, como minérios e peixes enlatados. A virada da economia norueguesa ocorreu a partir de 1969, quando foram descobertas grandes reservas de petróleo no Mar do Norte e a receita foi dirigida principalmente para saúde e educação. Hoje, esse país europeu detém a terceira maior renda per capita do mundo (US$ 59,3 mil) e o IDH mais alto do planeta.

Royalties para educação e CT&I – Assim, para fazer frente aos desafios que se apresentam na extração do petróleo na camada pré-sal no Brasil, os especialistas reforçam a necessidade de destinar parte significativa da receita dessa atividade para educação, ciência, tecnologia e inovação, seguindo o modelo norueguês. Aliás, essa é uma bandeira levantada pela comunidade científica, representada pela Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência (SBPC).

Os especialistas são unânimes em afirmar que o país precisa aproveitar as riquezas do pré-sal a fim de conquistar novos patamares de desenvolvimento, dar um salto na qualidade na educação e melhorar o capital humano – lembrando que um dia as reservas do petróleo acabarão. “Lembramos que são reservas muito grandes, mas finitas”, alerta Azevedo. “Cabe a nós transformá-las em um legado permanente, investindo na educação e no desenvolvimento do nosso país”, defende.

Já o diretor de tecnologia e inovação da Coppe/UFRJ, Estefen, acrescenta que o país precisa preparar o terreno, na área de pesquisas científicas e tecnológicas, para o período pós-petróleo. Nesse caso, ele considera fundamental assegurar investimentos para ampliar consideravelmente as pesquisas e estudos científicos para o desenvolvimento de tecnologias para produção de energias limpas e renováveis, lembrando que há um esforço de vários países em prol da redução de emissões em médio prazo. Vale destacar que o petróleo é um combustível fóssil que contribui significativamente para o aumento do efeito estufa.

Para o pesquisador da UFES, Castro, que considera positiva a proposta de criação do fundo do pré-sal (fundo soberano) – para o qual deve ser destinada metade da receita do óleo a ser extraído de águas ultraprofundas para educação – a exploração do pré-sal precisa ser inteligente, com responsabilidade ambiental e investimento em educação. “O petróleo traz muita riqueza, mas pode trazer, também, muita pobreza e muito dano ambiental”, lembra. “Por isso, a exploração tem de ser de forma inteligente, com responsabilidade ambiental e investimento em educação.” Hoje as riquezas do petróleo são distribuídas a estados, municípios e União por intermédio de royalties. Pela lei em vigor, os recursos devem ser investidos na parte social do país, “mas as prefeituras fazem mau uso dos recursos”, avalia.

Explorar o pré-sal requer esforços científicos e tecnológicos, considerando que os reservatórios estão a quase sete mil metros de profundidade a partir do nível do mar, com destaque para as Bacias de Santos (SP) e de Campos (RJ). Para fazer frente a esses desafios, Estefen diz que o país precisa mobilizar a comunidade científica nacional, seu conhecimento disponível, criar novos laboratórios, formar capital humano e gerar empregos de qualidade. “Extrair o petróleo do pré-sal vai demandar grande esforço tecnológico, esforços que vão ajudar o Brasil a conquistar novos patamares de desenvolvimento, futuramente”, diz. “Isto é, se usarmos bem os recursos do pré-sal, vamos educar as crianças, desenvolver a indústria, a ciência e a tecnologia. Se seguir tal receituário, o Brasil deverá se destacar no cenário internacional como um dos líderes tecnológicos, dentre os quais figuram Estados Unidos, Japão e países europeus”, conclui.

Pesquisadores analisam os custos ambientais da exploração profunda
Ao colocar na balança os benefícios que as riquezas do pré-sal podem proporcionar ao país e os eventuais custos ambientais, pesquisadores avaliam que o Brasil não pode renunciar à exploração do petróleo em águas profundas, unilateralmente, mesmo reconhecendo que a queima do petróleo contribui para o aquecimento global. Isso não significa que o processo de exploração do pré-sal desconsidere os danos ambientais.

O diretor de tecnologia e inovação da Coppe/UFRJ, Segen Estefen, insiste em dizer que todas as pesquisas em andamento vislumbram a proteção do meio ambiente, em uma tentativa de dar mais segurança às operações. “Não faz sentido o Brasil se beneficiar do petróleo por três ou quatro décadas, mas deixar o país em uma situação ruim para o meio ambiente”, explica.

Hoje os pesquisadores da Coppe, por exemplo, trabalham, simultaneamente, com assuntos ligados tanto à produção de petróleo, nos dias atuais, quanto a outras tecnologias que podem ser usadas na era “pós-petróleo”. Estudam, entre outros aspectos, a produção de eletricidade pelas ondas do mar – uma energia limpa e renovável – aproveitando a mesma estrutura montada e financiada pela indústria do petróleo para desenvolver conhecimento para o período pós-petróleo.

Para o especialista da Coppe/UFRJ, o Brasil não pode renunciar ao óleo do pré-sal porque essa “é uma riqueza importante para o Brasil” por ser uma fonte de energia competitiva. Dessa forma, ele acrescenta, a extração do pré-sal deverá render frutos positivos ao país. “No Brasil, ainda com tanta desigualdade, não podemos abdicar dessas riquezas”, diz. “Se não forem exploradas, talvez, daqui a 50 anos o preço do petróleo não valha metade dos valores atuais.” Por enquanto, Estefen acrescenta, não existe nenhum combustível capaz de substituir o petróleo e nem previsões para os próximos 20 anos, aproximadamente. Além disso, a demanda por essa energia tende a aumentar muito em função do aumento da população e da demanda de países, principalmente nos países asiáticos.

Demonstrando a mesma opinião, o professor Ricardo Cabral de Azevedo, do Departamento de Engenharia de Minas e de Petróleo da Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo (Poli/USP), considera ideal o país investir no conhecimento para substituir o uso do combustível fóssil, paulatinamente, em uma tentativa de minimizar os impactos ambientais. “O fato é que sempre haverá riscos, nessa ou em qualquer outra atividade, mas o ser humano ainda precisa do petróleo”, lembra. “Desse modo, o fundamental é procurarmos reduzi-los ao máximo. Aí também as experiências do passado são fundamentais, para aprendermos com os erros já cometidos.”

O eventual retorno socioeconômico proporcionado pela exploração de petróleo na camada pré-sal compensam os riscos ambientais, na observação do pesquisador e professor Eustáquio Vinícius de Castro, do Laboratório de Petróleo da Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo (UFES). “Compensam desde que as coisas aconteçam de forma inteligente e sustentável e com racionalidade no processo de produção”, diz. ” Hoje, as empresas petrolíferas, que no passado foram mais poluentes, adotam mais segurança no processo de extração do petróleo, mesmo que alguns problemas aconteçam de vez em quando”.

Dimensão – O petróleo na camada pré-sal ocupa, aproximadamente, uma área de 800 km de comprimento por 200 km de largura, acompanhando a linha do litoral sudeste brasileiro. Segundo dados da Petrobras, desde 2006, foram perfurados mais de 80 poços, tanto na Bacia de Santos quanto na de Campos, com índice “de sucesso exploratório” acima de 80%. A estimativa é de que outras 19 novas plataformas entrem em operação até 2016; e outras 19 entrem em atividade até 2020. Segundo dados de suas assessoria de imprensa, a companhia petrolífera, líder na exploração do pré-sal, encomendou ainda 21 plataformas de produção e 28 sondas de exploração marítima a serem construídas até 2020 no País, além de 49 navios-tanque e centenas de barcos de apoio e serviços offshore.