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Conspiracy of the day: American nonprofits oppose Canadian tar sands

Photo by tarsandsaction.

Here's a multiple choice question for you. Please circle the correct answer on your screen with a permanent marker, using a Sharpie™-brand pen in blue or black, for our system to read it properly.

The question: Why would American organizations contribute money to Canadian environmental nonprofits that are fighting, among other things, against the expansion of Alberta's oil sands and pipelines?

Read more: Fossil Fuels, Oil, Politics

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North Dakota’s fossil fuel boom: Messy

Via Lindsey GeePhoto by Lindsey Gee.

The fossil fuels boom has brought jobs to North Dakota. And several other things!

Like much higher rents.

[School superintendent Kelly] Koppinger said every new teacher he's tried to recruit asks about housing. Most can't afford it. There's a new apartment building across from the high school, but it's too expensive.

"Right now for a two-bedroom, one-bath you're looking at $1,800-a-month rent," he said. "A teacher's take home pay is right around that $2,000 mark and for them to spend $1,800 a month on just rent, we couldn't recruit or retain some of the staff we did have, so we needed to get it to where housing was somewhat affordable."

To remedy that, the school district is building several apartment units and will charge $500 a month for rent.

And crime.

Within the last few months, a Watford City pharmacy was robbed of $16,000 in narcotics, four people were stabbed at a local strip club in Williston, a semi truck crashed into an RV full of people sleeping and the first prostitution ring in decades was busted.

Last year, the number of criminal incidents reported to the Williston Police Department nearly tripled to 16,495. But that's only a fraction of the lawlessness the police have seen this year.

And, this, just released today:

According to data obtained by ProPublica, oil companies in North Dakota reported more than 1,000 accidental releases of oil, drilling wastewater or other fluids in 2011, about as many as in the previous two years combined. Many more illicit releases went unreported, state regulators acknowledge, when companies dumped truckloads of toxic fluid along the road or drained waste pits illegally.

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What’s really funny: Taking the oil industry’s word on its job creation

Oil industry apologists are giddy over a video of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) questioning a Department of Labor statistician about the various jobs that fall under the header of "green jobs." The crazy government includes crazy things under that heading! If you work for a facility that sells used clothing, that is a green job! If you drive a hybrid bus, green job! Garbage man! Green job!

The idea of categorizing green jobs is a new one, historically speaking. There were obviously green jobs a century ago, but people didn't look at them as being jobs that focused on sustainability or renewable energy production. The person who collected scrap metal and the person that built windmills just had regular old jobs. Green jobs only became a category tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in the past few years, meaning that it was applied retroactively to a number of jobs that clearly fit the definition. I mean, if the person that drives a low-emission mass transit vehicle doesn't have a green job, then who does?

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Fakey McFakerson: Mini oil rig causes massive booze spill at Shell execs’ party

IMPORTANT UPDATE: This smelled kinda like oil-soaked fish to us (and a lot of the internet), so I called Shell, and a spokesperson told me in no uncertain terms, "I can confirm that this was not a Shell event." You may still want to watch the video, but view it as a delightful exercise in alternate-universe fantasy, where bad guys always get their comeuppance and the Yes Men (probably) dole out poetic justice to all.

Original post preserved below, for transparency and also having some funny jokes in it.

Read more: Oil

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A guy: Saying ‘Big Oil’ is like saying ‘the Jews did it’

Photo by Jay Mallin.

In an opinion piece for U.S. News and World Report, Michael Lynch of Strategic Energy & Economic Research writes:

Recent references to "Big Oil" reminded me of a talk show where someone mentioned the theory that "the Jews" were behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the comedian Susie Essman joked that she must have missed that meeting. Sadly, our political discourse is often misinformed by such sweeping generalizations, less these days about ethnic or religious groups than organizations or professions.

Not really anything else to add. Except: really, U.S. News?

Read more: Oil, Politics

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BP’s Glenn Beck strategy for maybe saving a few million dollars

Both a representative image and a metaphor.

Three years ago, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig wrote an essay for The New Republic, "Against Transparency." His argument was an uncommon one: Political transparency is not an unalloyed good. His core argument is well articulated here:

[R]esponses to information are inseparable from their interests, desires, resources, cognitive capacities, and social contexts. Owing to these and other factors, people may ignore information, or misunderstand it, or misuse it. Whether and how new information is used to further public objectives depends upon its incorporation into complex chains of comprehension, action, and response.

I am not a Harvard Law professor, so I will paraphrase the movie Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire version): With great amounts of information comes great opportunity for abuse.

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Russian rivers are clogged with frozen oil

Whatever terrors the U.S. oil industry might come up with, the Russian oil industry is worse. Greenpeace's Jon Burgwald recently visited Usinsk, a frigid city that's a major Russian oil outpost. The oil pollution is so bad in this area that thawing rivers run black with oil. There's even oil ice, which you can see in this footage:

Read more: Oil

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Republicans try to force the military to use dirty energy it doesn’t want

Photo by the U.S. Army.

The U.S. military recognizes that dependence on fossil fuels is a threat to U.S. strategic influence and its own operational effectiveness. With that in mind, it's trying to make itself lighter and leaner, reducing energy consumption at bases and on the battlefield while working to develop fuel alternatives for its ship and plane fleets. Republicans have been quietly grumbling about this for a while; now they are openly opposing it. The GOP wastes no opportunity to boast of "supporting the troops," but that support apparently ends where Big Oil contributions begin.

Let's look at a few examples, shall we?

GOP tries to block use of cleaner fuels

Last week, the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee proposed a new Pentagon budget. Tucked away inside it was a provision that would prohibit the Department of Defense from buying any alternative fuels that cost more than conventional fossil fuels. TPM has the story.

Slate's Fred Kaplan laments that this provision would kill the $12 million "Green Strike Group" program the Navy is running, which would field a strike group running entirely on biofuels (and a nuclear-powered carrier) for a naval exercise in June. The Navy hopes to have an entire "Great Green Fleet" in the water by 2016.

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Risky business: A look inside the black heart of a Goliath oil company

Steve Coll is a master at getting behind locked doors. As an investigative journalist with two Pulitzer Prizes to his name, Coll has cracked the likes of the Central Intelligence Agency and the bin Laden family. But he had never met an institution quite as closely guarded as his latest subject, ExxonMobil, a company whose $550 billion in revenue last year dwarfs the Gross Domestic Product of most nations.

“They’re very disciplined, they’re very tightly organized, and they have a very emphatic policy of avoiding press coverage,” says Coll, a longtime editor at the Washington Post who is now a staff writer at the New Yorker and director of the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

It took three years to get into the heart of this beast, but Coll ultimately did it, even landing interviews with the company’s longtime CEO, Lee Raymond, a chemical engineer by training who famously denied that humans were causing climate change, and poured company money into climate denial organizations and campaigns.

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U.S. military kicks more ass by using less fossil-fuel energy

soldier with solar panelGoing solar in Afghanistan. (Photo by U.S. Marine Corps)

This is my contribution to a dialogue on the military and clean energy being hosted by National Journal.

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To understand the promise of renewable energy for the U.S. military, it helps to start as far from Washington, D.C., as possible. (This is true for most forms of understanding.) Start far from the politicians, even from the military brass, far from the rooms where big-money decisions are made, far out on the leading edge of the conflict, with a small company of Marines in Afghanistan's Sangin River Valley.

Not long ago, for a three-day mission out of a forward operating base in Afghanistan, each Marine would have humped between 20 and 35 pounds of batteries. One of the reasons Marines are so lethal in such small numbers today is that they are constantly connected by radios and computers. But radios and computers require a constant supply of batteries, brought by convoy over some of the deadliest roads on earth and then piled on the backs of Marines in highly kinetic environments.

In late 2010, India Company, from the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, tried something new. They packed Solar Portable Alternative Communications Energy Systems, or SPACES -- flexible solar panels, 64 square inches, that weigh about 2.5 pounds each. One 1st Lieutenant from India 3/5 later boasted that his patrol shed 700 pounds.

"We stayed out for three weeks," he said, "and didn't need a battery resupply once."