The Climate Deception Dossiers?

I’m not sure where this comes from (David Hone reminded me of it) but the UCS has The Climate Deception Dossiers which breathlessly tells us Internal fossil fuel industry memos reveal decades of disinformation—a deliberate campaign to deceive the public that continues even today. This is news? Its not news to me. But wait, there’s UPDATE (July 9, 2015): As this report went to press, a newly discovered email from a former Exxon employee revealed that the company was already factoring climate change into decisions about new fossil fuel extraction as early as 1981 which leads to Former Exxon Employee Says Company Considered Climate Risks as Early as 1981. Which tells us

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (July 8, 2015)—Exxon employees considered how climate change should factor into decisions about new fossil fuel extraction as early as 1981… Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia…

and this leads to the exciting memo which is from a guy called Lenny Bernstein, and says things like Corporations are interested in environmental impacts only to the extent that they affect profits, either current or future. They may take what appears to be altruistic positions to improve their public image, but the assumption underlying those actions is that they will increase future profits. ExxonMobil is an interesting case in point. I think that’s correct (I mean; as a description of their behaviour; though notice that statement is from a former Exxon guy and, I presume, doesn’t represent Exxon’s formal position).

Exxon first got interested in climate change in 1981 because it was seeking to develop the Natuna gas field off Indonesia. This is an immense reserve of natural gas, but it is 70% CO2. That CO2 would have to be separated to make the natural gas usable… the usual practice was to vent the CO2 to the atmosphere… if Natuna were developed and its CO2 vented to the atmosphere, it would be the largest point source of CO2 in the world and account for about 1% of projected global CO2 emissions… In the 1980s, Exxon needed to understand the potential for concerns about climate change to lead to regulation that would affect Natuna and other potential projects. They were well ahead of the rest of industry in this awareness. Other companies, such as Mobil, only became aware of the issue in 1988, when it first became a political issue. Natural resource companies ‐ oil, coal, minerals ‐ have to make investments that have lifetimes of 50‐100 years. Whatever their public stance, internally they make very careful assessments of the potential for regulation, including the scientific basis for those regulations. Exxon NEVER denied the potential for humans to impact the climate system. It did question ‐ legitimately, in my opinion ‐ the validity of some of the science… Having spent twenty years working for Exxon and ten working for Mobil, I know that much of that ethical behavior comes from a business calculation that it is cheaper in the long run to be ethical than unethical. Safety is the clearest example of this. ExxonMobil knows all too well the cost of poor safety practices. The Exxon Valdez is the most public, but far from the only, example of the high cost of unsafe operations. The value of good environmental practices are more subtle, but a facility that does a good job of controlling emission and waste is a well run facility, that is probably maximizing profit.

This was spun by various, including the Graun, as Exxon knew of climate change in 1981, email says – but it funded deniers for 27 more years. A newly unearthed missive from Lenny Bernstein, a climate expert with the oil firm for 30 years, shows concerns over high presence of carbon dioxide in enormous gas field in south-east Asia factored into decision not to tap it.

Anyway, the point is, I don’t understand any of this. Exxon had an interest in a gas field, it would have been troublesome to exploit, partly for CO2-GW-related reasons, so they backed off. But that’s not a bad thing; if anything, its a good thing. As to funding the deniers, meh, that’s old news.

Curiously, in all this they haven’t got a moment to spare for what did happen to the Natuna gas field. http://www.offshore-technology.com/projects/natuna says (via the internet archive)

A 1980, 50-50 venture in Natuna D-Alpha area, East Natuna, between Pertamina (Indonesia’s state-owned petroleum company) and Exxon Mobil Corp of the US, didn’t result in production. The 71% CO2 content made gas extraction from the huge 1.3-trillion-cubic-metre area expensive, and development difficult. Despite Exxon’s $400m and Pertamina’s $60m investments, the Indonesian Government terminated its contract with Exxon in 2007 leaving Pertamina in charge. East Natuna has been little explored over the last 15 years, mainly due to political disruption, its remoteness, and because discoveries such as Exxon’s have proved uneconomic to develop.

So it kinda looks to me as though no-one else has touched it either. So this isn’t even Exxon-specific.

What I said about Exxon

morag I want to write about some new stuff, but in the course of it I need to rehearse what I’ve said about Exxon over the years. So I’ll do it here, for reference. Some of it is so far in the past it predates blogging.

sci.env: 1997

1997? Were there really such years?

Exxon Chairman puts Climate Change in Perspective. Me, responding to someone quoting “Exxon Chairman Calls Poverty Most Pressing Environmental Problem in Developing Countries”(mmm… a theme that never dies. Notice also cameo appearance from John McCarthy: It would take a lot to induce the chairman of Exxon to promote nuclear
energy
):

>"Most of the greenhouse effect comes from natural sources, especially
>water vapor," Raymond said. "Less than a quarter is from carbon dioxide,
>and of this, only four percent of the carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere
>is due to human activities -- 96 percent comes from nature. Leaping to
>radically cut this tiny sliver of the greenhouse pie on the premise that
>it will affect climate defies common sense and lacks foundation in our
>current understanding of the climate system."

I confess, I didn't read most of the Exxon chairmans message. But if the rest of it
is as bad as this section, its not worth reading.

Yes, its *true* that most of the GH effect is from water vapour, but *no* its not
relevant - the water vapour in this sense passively responds to the CO2.

Yes, its *true* that only 4 percent of CO2 emmissions are from human activities, but
again, this is irrelevant - what matters is the balance between sources and sinks,
and humans are responsible for the majority of the imbalance.

We've had this before on sci.environment. Steve Hales should certainly know better
than to post rubbish like this. Raymond may not know better, but he should have
enough expensive advisors who should be able to tell him better. I can only conclude
that he (Raymond) is deliberately trying to mislead.

Well yes. Things were clearer in those days: Exxon really were naughty and Lee Raymond really was doing his best to mislead people, probably without actively lying.

sci.env: 2002

ExxonMobil deflects critics with $100m green donation. Me, originating something just for once: quoting from the Graun (credit to them for managing to keep a web page up and not-bit-rotted for more than 12 years):

Sadly not quite up to the headline: see:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,3604,844241,00.html

from which I quote:

"ExxonMobil, the biggest publicly quoted oil group in the world,
yesterday wrongfooted green activists by announcing plans to invest
$100m (£63m) into a project organised by Stanford University to ta
ckle global warming... Exxon has joined up with General Electric
and Schlumberger to provide $225m funding over 10 years to lead a
search for solutions to global climate and energy needs."

LR said:

"We are convinced the global climate and energy project will make
significant academic and private-sector contributions to the development
of practical technologies to address the potential long-term risk
of climate change,"

but note the "potential long-term risk" qualifier.

sci.env: 2005

Debate Down Under. Me, responding to someone who had quoted from techcentralstation.com/041105F.html:

>Dr. Brian Flannery,
>ExxonMobil's chief environment and safety advisor observed in passing
>that there was little basis for probabilist numbers and observed that
>there was a great deal more we needed to know about the science. He
>cited several leading US institutions as sharing that view.

Err, that we won't bother to name, but which probably, like Exxon,
have a strong financial interest in producing CO2.

So, clearly little respect for them at that point.

Stoat, 2005: Exxonmobil title-tattle: http://www.europeanvoice.com

Exxonmobil title-tattle: www.europeanvoice.com. Me noting that Exxon are shifting towards doing their best to say nothing about global warming.

Stoat, 2006: Lee Raymond retires with stonking payoff

Lee Raymond retires with stonking payoff. Per title really. Nothing explicitly to do with GW.

Stoat, 2008: In defence of Exxon

In defence of Exxon. My first post with such a title I think. I’m defending them against suggestions that they should invest in renewable energy, on the grounds that they don’t know anything about it. Eli swiped me obliquely.

Is that it?

I think it might be. My memory, aka Google, says so. Feel free to point out more.

Ah, I also find Questions for Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson me commenting at mt’s. And a comment on ExxonMobil’s position on climate change continues to be misunderstood by some individuals and groups at Inel’s.

All in all, its pretty thin. Is it me, or is it Exxon?

Refs

* Lakes are warming at a surprisingly fast rate – VV

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014

From the wildlife photographer of the year awards, 2014. Herfried Marek, Austria: Golden birch. I was browsing the book in Waterstones today, and came across this, and was struck. It is brilliant. Shades of Rice terraces in Yunnan in the way that what’s actually a photograph looks like a painting. I think it is far better than the winner; the judges wimped out and went for a boring picture of lions.

trees

My number two is some fish and an anenome:

fish

As you can tell, I like patterns. Number three I think I’d give to the sand dune.

Greek PM drops trousers again

bonds I feel like writing about the Greek crisis. I discover that I wrote about the last one, so I’ve nicked my witty headline from then.

The situation as it is now, or at least my reading of it: the Greeks have caved in. After lots of posturing, the reality of two weeks of banks shut and no other way out than leaving the Euro has left then against the fundamental political reality of their present: they want to stay in the Euro.

Numerous people have argued that Greece should leave the Euro, including some who believe that the Euro is in principle a good idea. However, that’s not what the Greek people want. They want to stay in, by a margin significantly larger than voted “no” in the referendum. Quite why is open to speculation; its doubtful that even a small minority understand the economics. My guess is that they very definitely want to stay in the EU, and fear that exit from the Euro might be a slippery slope to leaving the EU1; or being second-class members like us; or they’re just mixing up the concepts. But it hardly matters: what matters is that they wanted to stay in.

Despite that, Greeks like free money, early retirement and a life on the beach as much as anyone else, so last January they voted in Syriza on a platform that yes there really are fairies at the bottom of the garden who will hand out free money with no strings attached and no hard work required. No, it never works out in the fairy stories either; there is always a catch. This was a shame, as the government voted out was finally starting to do some sensible things; so it goes. Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

BOB110715_3371790b Syriza, I think, genuinely wanted to deliver an end to austerity, but are fundamentally incompetent, so couldn’t. The only way out was to leave the Euro, which would have been risky, but the only way to get there would have been to believe it and prepare the people for it; they weren’t going to do that. So we were treated to the spectacle of five months of incompetent negotiations. International diplomacy is tricky, I think. Especially dealing with new people. People get taken on trust, to some extent. Its taken quite a while for everyone to realise how useless Syriza are.

There’s a lesson here, also available from Syria or Mogadishu: incompetent government is the worst thing. The proposals Syriza are putting forward, now, are about the same as what they could have put forward five months ago. All this time has been wasted. I’ve seen numerous people write, gleefully, about how marvellous the Greeks are for sticking up to the capitalists, or similar phrases. These people are idiots, and their words just empty sloganeering.

Or as Kipling put it (noting of course that “Gods of the Market” needs to be interpreted):

Then the Gods of the Market tumbled, and their smooth-tongued wizards withdrew
And the hearts of the meanest were humbled and began to believe it was true
That All is not Gold that Glitters, and Two and Two make Four
And the Gods of the Copybook Headings limped up to explain it once more.

As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

Enough useless carping. What should they do?

If it was up to me, they shouldn’t have elected Syriza. But, lets say what should they do starting now; we’re not allowed to go back and change the past. Then I think they really need the restructuring. They should be doing that anyway, starting now, not using it as a bargaining chip.

Addendum: Yes to the Euro?

As I’ve commented, the std.econ case for Greece leaving (indeed, never having joined) the Euro appears to be strong (disclaimer: I’m not an economist, so I’m going with the flow of people I trust). But as I’ve also commented, this isn’t a pure econ decision. Nor are we able to rewind time and have them not join; nor can we give them the option of leaving at a time of their own choosing when things are otherwise smooth. Leaving now would be an emergency decision in a time of crisis, and quite likely a bad idea even from an econ perspective. Like mt, I’m not terribly convinced that std.econ covers dynamic situations well.

So its interesting to read Yes to the Euro! by “30 internationally recognized Greek economists issued a clear declaration in favor of YES in the referendum of July 5, 2015 (published on the front page in Kathimerini, 30.6.15)”. As you can tell from that, while the core argument is over the Euro, it merges both sides into EU too; so the two are always linked. Para 2 is a about the short-term chaotic consequences, which (I agree) Greece isn’t well prepared to handle. Para 3 is more interesting though, and provides a long-term reason for staying in:

Modern, prosperous economies in Europe and the world are based on the market and on healthy competition… an efficient public sector, which operates independently of the current government… Greece’s participation in the core of Europe fosters long-term convergence to European institutions. By contrast, a Greek exit from the euro would strengthen the tendency to clientelist structures and aggravate the timeless pathologies of the Greek economy. This inevitably leads to a closed and impoverished economy with high corruption levels.

I agree that’s a good argument: Greece needs the discipline of the Euro; without it, it will sink back into the problems that have got it where it is. Whether its stronger than the std.econ argument that the-Euro-is-not-an-optimal-currency-area, blah, I can’t tell.

BTW, in case it wasn’t obvious, my made-up headline is a reference to the 2011 “Greek PM drops euro referendum plan”. Not to anything rude.

Addendum: trust?

A thought I meant to add earlier. Any number of articles (example) note that the EU has lost trust in the Greek government. But they’re being asked to trust the Greeks again: here’s another set of proposals, late, clearly rushed. Do we believe that you’ve even thought them through? Unlikely, in the time available. Have we got time to think them through, carefully? Can we talk through them, so we can trust that you really understand them and will indeed implement them? There’s no time. Do your statements outside these meetings indicate that you’re committed to seeing these reforms through? No, quite the reverse: outside the meetings the Greek govt presents fiery rhetoric and accuses the Germans of terrorism. There is every reason to think that they aren’t committed to these proposals. So how do the EU tide them over the current crisis, and yet keep the Greek feet to the fire?

Some answers, for example from the Graun. I think the language they’re using there is deliberately inflammatory – this is irresponsible of them – but the (deserved) lack of trust in the Greeks is plain.

Addendum: projection

A feature of this crisis has been a variety of people – mostly the Left -going “ra ra! Go Greece, stick it to the Capitalists!” These people are idiots. In their defence, they aren’t thinking at all: they’re simply projecting what they want onto the current crisis, which happens to be this one. They know nothing about what is going on, but that doesn’t bother them, because they aren’t even trying to talk about what is going on.

Addendum: popularity

[Added 2015/07/23] As this story in the Australian says, Alexis Tsipras remains popular despite chaos. So although I think he’s a twat, he’s probably the best person to stay as PM, at least for the moment. As long as he leaves the economics up to someone competent, and sticks to keeping everyone happy with a very unhappy deal. At the moment, stability is good -W]

Refs

* Greece debt crisis: Greek MPs to debate controversial reforms plan
* Greeks facing day of judgment in struggle to stay in eurozone
* Greece: Past Critiques and the Path Forward by Olivier Blanchard
* The end of the lifeline – plumbum. You should probably read this too; though it was written two weeks ago. I agree with much of it, but not the “chicken” bit: the Greeks have been playing it as a game, yes, but the EU haven’t been; and the Greeks are now discovering that their chicken is going to smash into an oncoming tank.
* JJuly 13, 2015 4:11 pm: Alexis Tsipras faces showdown with his own party – FT
* The Economist explains:
What Greece must do to receive a new bail-out
– Jul 14th 2015, 15:33
* IMF stuns Europe with call for massive Greek debt relief – Torygraph.
* AN UPDATE OF IMF STAFF’S PRELIMINARY PUBLIC DEBT SUSTAINABILITY ANALYSIS: Greece’s public debt has become highly unsustainable. This is due to the easing of policies during the last year, with the recent deterioration in the domestic macroeconomic and financial environment because of the closure of the banking system adding significantly to the adverse dynamics.
* More fuckwittery, this time from Reuters, July 17, 2015.

Notes

1. For example Now a deal has been done, what lies ahead for the Greek economy? from the Graun, with “Our entry to the EC was the second most important date in Greek history after the war of independence,” says Thanos Veremis, emeritus professor of political history at Athens University. “If we left the eurozone, we would have to adopt policies that would lead very quickly to the country leaving the EU – and that would be a national catastrophe.” Its not clear to me why he believes this – I mean, the “we would have to adopt policies that would lead very quickly to the country leaving the EU” bit – but he clearly does.