Category Archives: environment
BOGOTA – Uprisings have grown more frequent in the large swaths of Colombian territory inhabited by indigenous, Afro-descendant and peasant communities. Discontent is spreading among this nation’s various hunters, gatherers, herders, loggers, fishermen and seasonal farmers.
Some analysts have predicted that our own “Arab Spring” could rise up from these places, which have the highest values of water and biodiversity in the world. It would be an unprecedented environmental boiling point.
These are the areas that make up that “Other Colombia” that people in the urban centers do not understand. And now it has become a security concern. We do not have sound integration policies or a development plan adapted for a diversity of backgrounds. For the most part, these are communities that lose their adaptive viability in the face of cultural and economic changes that come with modernity.
The secular “buenos vivideros,” or good living, areas become pockets of poverty, conflict and displacement. Almost all lifestyles in transition in these distant and secluded regions constitute some sort of illegality. The use of forestry, which continues to take place, is less acceptable to the increasingly educated urban centers. The exploitation of wildlife is stigmatized, but without any alternatives. For example, continental fishing is a sector the state has abandoned.
GDP is not everything
When the government starts to heed the cry against criminal mining, which occurs without economic alternatives in some places, it begins to feed discontent. While this practice is destroying jungles and rivers, we would be entering a new conflict without having emerged from others. This issue has to do with the fact that Colombia does not have a proposal for sustainable development in the occupied border territories.
In fact, Colombia does not understand its own territory. With the rainy season of 2011, an official said with satisfaction that the “damn Niña” — as Colombia President Juan Santos called it — “had not altered the GDP.” But the “Other Colombia” does not benefit from this GDP in the same way. Our officials, with some exceptions, simply cannot conceive that these parts of the country have their own identity, and often very different benchmarks.
It will not be a peaceful Colombia if we city folk value only conservation and fail to recognize that people have lived in this vast space for a long time. The protection of natural resources coupled with local benefits could be part of the solution. And yet, the current development plan prescribes agriculture for the barren lands without offering an alternative for their inhabitants. As Professor Julio Carrizosa has said, “Our institutions are excessively simple-minded in the face of the territories’ complexity.”
We declare millions of hectares as communal lands, but we leave them in a profound, institutional abandon. The Humboldt Institute, which counts on a program for the use of biodiversity, can barely become a scientific witness to the decline of those lifestyles. A “Marshall Plan” is needed to revitalize the Colombia of the forests, floodplain rivers, swamps, rain forests, natural grasslands and extensive mountain areas. It would represent a national commitment to culture, environment and security.
The national government could create a commission of academics and locals to propose a vision. We need a recipe for integration that is sustainable and worthy of Colombia’s minorities, who hold the vast majority of the territory.
At a time when much of the world is looking with a mix of envy and excitement at the recent boom in USA unconventional gas from shale rock, when countries from China to Poland to France to the UK are beginning to launch their own ventures into unconventional shale gas extraction, hoping it is the cure for their energy woes, the US shale boom is revealing itself to have been a gigantic hyped confidence bubble that is already beginning to deflate. Carpe diem!
America: The New Saudi Arabia?
If we’re to believe the current media reports out of Washington and the US oil and gas industry, the United States is about to become the “new Saudi Arabia.” We are told she is suddenly and miraculously on the track to energy self-sufficiency. No longer need the US economy depend on high-risk oil or gas from the politically unstable Middle East or African countries. The Obama White House energy adviser, Heather Zichal, has even shifted her focus from pushing carbon cap ‘n trade schemes to promoting America’s “shale revolution.”
In his January 2012 State of the Union Address to Congress, President Obama claimed that, largely owing to the shale gas revolution, “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.” 
Renowned energy experts like Cambridge Energy Research’s Daniel Yergin in recent Congressional testimony waxed almost poetic about the purported benefits of the recent US shale oil and gas exploitation: “The United States is in the midst of the ‘unconventional revolution in oil and gas’ that, it becomes increasingly apparent, goes beyond energy itself.” He didn’t explain what exactly energy going beyond energy itself means. He also claimed that “the industry supports 1.7 million jobs – a considerable accomplishment given the relative newness of the technology. That number could rise to 3 million by 2020.” Very impressive numbers.
Mr Yergin went on to suggest a major geopolitical dimension of America’s shale oil and gas industry, saying “expansion of US energy exports will add an additional dimension to US influence in the world…Shale gas has risen from two percent of domestic production a decade ago to 37 percent of supply, and prices have dropped dramatically. US oil output, instead of continuing its long decline, has increased dramatically – by about 38 percent since 2008. Just the increase since 2008 is equivalent to the entire output of Nigeria, the seventh-largest producing country in OPEC…People talk about the potential geopolitical impact of the shale gas and tight oil. That impact is already here…”
In their Energy Outlook to 2030, published in 2012, BP’s CEO Bob Dudley sounded a similar upbeat projection of the role of shale gas and oil in making North America energy independent of the Middle East. BP predicted that growth in shale oil and gas supplies—“along with other fuel sources”—will make the western hemisphere virtually self-sufficient in energy by 2030. In a development with enormous geopolitical implications, a large swath of the world including North and South America would see its dependence on oil imports from potentially volatile countries in the Middle East and elsewhere disappear, BP added.
There’s only one thing wrong with all the predictions of a revitalized United States energy superpower flooding the world with its shale oil and shale gas. It’s based on a bubble, on hype from the usual Wall Street spin doctors. In reality it is becoming increasingly clear that the shale revolution is a short-term flash in the energy pan, a new Ponzi fraud, carefully built with the aid of the same Wall Street banks and their “market analyst” friends, many of whom brought us the 2000 “dot.com” bubble and, more spectacularly, the 2002-2007 US real estate securitization bubble. A more careful look at the actual performance of the shale revolution and its true costs is instructive.
One reason we hear little about the declining fortunes of shale gas and oil is that the boom is so recent, reaching significant proportions only in 2009-2010. Long-term field extraction data for a significant number of shale gas wells only recently is coming to light. Another reason is that there have grown up huge vested corporate interests from Wall Street to the oil industry who are trying everything possible to keep the shale revolution myth alive. Despite all their efforts however, data coming to light, mostly for the review of industry professionals, is alarming.
Shale gas has recently come onto the gas market in the US via use of several combined techniques developed among others by Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton Inc. Halliburton several years ago combined new methods for drilling in a horizontal direction with injection of chemicals and “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing of the shale rock formations that often trap volumes of natural gas. Until certain changes in the last few years, shale gas was considered uneconomical. Because of the extraction method, shale gas is dubbed unconventional and is extracted in far different ways from conventional gas.
The US Department of Energy’ EIA defines conventional oil and gas as oil and gas “produced by a well drilled into a geologic formation in which the reservoir and fluid characteristics permit
the oil and natural gas to readily flow to the wellbore.” Conversely, unconventional hydrocarbon production doesn’t meet these criteria, either because geological formations present a very low level of porosity and permeability, or because the fluids have a density approaching or even exceeding that of water, so that they cannot be produced, transported, and refined by conventional methods. By definition then, unconventional oil and gas are far more costly and difficult to extract than conventional, one reason they only became attractive when oil prices soared above $100 a barrel in early 2008 and more or less remained there.
To extract the unconventional shale gas, a hydraulic fracture is formed by pumping a fracturing fluid into the wellbore at sufficient pressure causing the porous shale rock strata to crack. The fracture fluid, whose precise contents are usually company secret and extremely toxic, continues further into the rock, extending the crack. The trick is to then prevent the fracture from closing and ending the supply of gas or oil to the well. Because in a typical fracked well fluid volumes number in millions of gallons of water, water mixed with toxic chemicals, fluid leak-off or loss of fracturing fluid from the fracture channel into the surrounding permeable rock takes place. If not controlled properly, that fluid leak-off can exceed 70% of the injected volume resulting in formation matrix damage, adverse formation fluid interactions, or altered fracture geometry and thereby decreased production efficiency.
Hydraulic fracturing has recently become the preferred US method of extracting unconventional oil and gas resources. In North America, some estimate that hydraulic fracturing will account for nearly 70% of natural gas development in the future.
Why have we just now seen the boom in fracking shale rock to get gas and oil? Thank then-Vice president Dick Cheney and friends. The real reason for the recent explosion of fracking in the United States was passage of legislation in 2005 by the US Congress that exempted the oil industry’s hydraulic fracking, astonishing as it sounds, from any regulatory supervision by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that is allowed by EPA to inject known hazardous materials – unchecked – directly into or adjacent to underground drinking water supplies.
The 2005 law is known as the “Halliburton Loophole.” That’s because it was introduced on massive lobbying pressure from the company that produces the lion’s share of chemical hydraulic fracking fluids – Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton. When he became Vice President under George W. Bush in early 2001, Cheney immediately got Presidential responsibility for a major Energy Task Force to make a comprehensive national energy strategy. Aside from looking at Iraq oil potentials as documents later revealed, the energy task force used Cheney’s considerable political muscle and industry lobbying money to win exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. 
During Cheney’s term as vice president he moved to make sure the Government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would give a green light to a major expansion of shale gas drilling in the US.
In 2004 the EPA issued a study of the environmental effects of fracking. That study has been called “scientifically unsound” by EPA whistleblower Weston Wilson. In March of 2005, EPA Inspector General Nikki Tinsley found enough evidence of potential mishandling of the EPA hydraulic fracturing study to justify a review of Wilson’s complaints. The Oil and Gas Accountability Project conducted a review of the EPA study which found that EPA removed information from earlier drafts that suggested unregulated fracturing poses a threat to human health, and that the Agency did not include information that suggests “fracturing fluids may pose a threat to drinking water long after drilling operations are completed.” Under political pressure the report was ignored. Fracking went full-speed ahead.
© n/a Fracking toxic waste. This diagram depicts methane gas and toxic water contaminating the drinking water as the fracturing cracks penetrate the water table.
The Halliburton Loophole is no minor affair. The process of hydraulic fracking to extract gas involves staggering volumes of water and of some of the most toxic chemicals known. Water is essential to shale gas fracking. Hydraulic fracturing uses between 1.2 and 3.5 million US gallons (4.5 and 13 million liters) of water per well, with large projects using up to 5 million US gallons (19 Million liters). Additional water is used when wells are refractured; this may be done several times. An average well requires 3 to 8 million US gallons of water over its lifetime. Entire farm regions of Pennsylvania and other states with widespread hydraulic fracking report their well water sources have become so toxic as to make the water undrinkable. In some cases fracked gas seeps into the home via the normal water faucet.
© Screenshot from HBO film Gasland – Rural resident flicking on cigarette lighter next to his kitchen faucet and watching his drinking water, infused with gas and chemicals, ignite in flames as high as 3 feet.
During the uproar over the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Obama Administration and the Energy Department formed an Advisory Commission on Shale Gas, ostensibly to examine the growing charges of environmental hazards from shale gas practices.
Their report was released in November 2011. It was what could only be called a “whitewash” of the dangers and benefits of shale gas.
The commission was headed by former CIA director John M. Deutch. Deutch himself is not neutral. He sits on the board of the LNG gas company Cheniere Energy. Deutch’s Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass project is one of only two current US projects to create an LNG terminal to export US shale gas to foreign markets.
Deutch is also on the board of Citigroup, one of the world’s most active energy industry banks, tied to the Rockefeller family. He also sits on the board of Schlumberger, which along with Halliburton, is one of the leading companies doing hydraulic fracking. In fact, of the seven panel members, six had ties to the energy industry, including fellow Deutch panel member and shale fracking booster, Daniel Yergin, himself a member of the National Petroleum Council. Little surprise that the Deutch report called shale gas, “the best piece of news about energy in the last 50 years.” Deutch added, “Over the long term it has the potential to displace liquid fuels in the United States.” 
Shale gas: Racing against the Clock
With regulatory free-rein, now also backed by the Obama Administration, the US oil and gas industry went full-power into shale gas extraction, taking advantage of high oil and natural gas prices to reap billions in quick gains.
According to official US Department of Energy Energy Information Administration data, shale gas extraction ballooned from just under 2 million MCF in 2007, the first year data was tracked, to more than 8,500,000 Mcf by 2011, a fourfold rise to comprise almost 40% of total dry natural gas extraction in the USA that year. In 2002 shale gas was a mere 3% of total gas.
Here enters the paradox of the US “shale gas revolution.” Since the days of oil production wars more than a century ago, various industry initiatives had been created to prevent oil and later gas price collapse due to over-production. During the 1930’s there was discovery of the huge East Texas oilfields, and a collapse of oil prices. The State of Texas, whose Railroad Commission (TRC) had been given regulatory powers not only over railroads but also over oil and gas production in what then was the world’s most important oil producing region, was called in to arbitrate the oil wars. That resulted in daily statewide production quotas so successful that OPEC later modeled itself on the TRC experience.
Today, with federal deregulation of the oil and gas industry, such extraction controls are absent as every shale gas producer from BP to Chesapeake Energy, Anadarko Petroleum, Chevron, Encana and others all raced full-tilt to extract the maximum shale gas from their properties.
The reason for the full-throttle extraction is telling. Shale Gas, unlike conventional gas, depletes dramatically faster owing to its specific geological location. It diffuses and becomes impossible to extract without the drilling of costly new wells.
The result of the rapidly rising volumes of shale gas suddenly on the market was a devastating collapse in the market price of that same gas. In 2005 when Cheney got the EPA exemption that began the shale boom, the marker US gas price measured at Henry Hub in Louisiana, at the intersection of nine interstate pipelines, was some $14 per thousand cubic feet. By February 2011 it had plunged amid a gas glut to $3.88. Currently prices hover around $3.50 per tcf.
In a sobering report, Arthur Berman, a veteran petroleum geologist specialized in well assessment, using existing well extraction data for major shale gas regions in the US since the boom started, reached sobering conclusions. His findings point to a new Ponzi scheme which well might play out in a colossal gas bust over the next months or at best, the next two or three years. Shale gas is anything but the “energy revolution” that will give US consumers or the world gas for 100 years as President Obama was told.
Berman wrote already in 2011, “Facts indicate that most wells are not commercial at current gas prices and require prices at least in the range of $8.00 to $9.00/mcf to break even on full-cycle prices, and $5.00 to $6.00/mcf on point-forward prices. Our price forecasts ($4.00-4.55/mcf average through 2012) are below $8.00/mcf for the next 18 months. It is, therefore, possible that some producers will be unable to maintain present drilling levels from cash flow, joint ventures, asset sales and stock offerings.” 
Berman continued, “Decline rates indicate that a decrease in drilling by any of the major producers in the shale gas plays would reveal the insecurity of supply. This is especially true in the case of the Haynesville Shale play where initial rates are about three times higher than in the Barnett or Fayetteville. Already, rig rates are dropping in the Haynesville as operators shift emphasis to more liquid-prone objectives that have even lower gas rates. This might create doubt about the paradigm of cheap and abundant shale gas supply and have a cascading effect on confidence and capital availability.” 
What Berman and others have also concluded is that the gas industry key players and their Wall Street bankers backing the shale boom have grossly inflated the volumes of recoverable shale gas reserves and hence its expected supply duration. He notes, “Reserves and economics depend on estimated ultimate recoveries (EUR) based on hyperbolic, or increasingly flattening, decline profiles that predict decades of commercial production. With only a few years of production history in most of these plays, this model has not been shown to be correct, and may be overly optimistic….Our analysis of shale gas well decline trends indicates that the Estimated Ultimate Recovery per well is approximately one-half the values commonly presented by operators.” In brief, the gas producers have built the illusion that their unconventional and increasingly costly shale gas will last for decades.
Basing his analysis on actual well data from major shale gas regions in the US, Berman concludes however, that the shale gas wells decline in production volumes at an exponential rate and are liable to run out far faster than being hyped to the market. Could this be the reason financially exposed US shale gas producers, loaded with billions of dollars in potential lease properties bought during the peak of prices, have recently been desperately trying to sell off their shale properties to naïve foreign or other investors?
Three decades of natural gas extraction from tight sandstone and coal-bed methane show that profits are marginal in low permeability reservoirs. Shale reservoirs have orders of magnitude lower reservoir permeability than tight sandstone and coal-bed methane. So why do smart analysts blindly accept that commercial results in shale plays should be different? The simple answer is found in high initial production rates. Unfortunately, these high initial rates are made up for by shorter lifespan wells and additional costs associated with well re-stimulation. Those who expect the long-term unit cost of shale gas to be less than that of other unconventional gas resources will be disappointed…the true structural cost of shale gas production is higher than present prices can support ($4.15/mcf average price for the year ending July 30, 2011), and that per-well reserves are about one-half of the volumes claimed by operators. 
Therein lies the explanation for why a sophisticated oil industry in the United States has desperately been producing full-throttle, in a high-stakes game laying the seeds of their own bankruptcy in the process—They are racing to offload the increasingly unprofitable shale assets before the bubble finally bursts. Wall Street financial backers are in on the Ponzi game with billions at stake, much as in the recent real estate securitization fraud.
One Hundred Years of Gas?
Where then did someone get the number to tell the US President that America had 100 years of gas supply? Here is where lies, damn lies and statistics play a crucial role. The US does not have 100 years of natural gas supply from shale or unconventional sources. That number came from a deliberate blurring by someone of the fundamental difference between what in oil and gas is termed resources and what is called reserves.
A gas or oil resource is the totality of the gas or oil originally existing on or within the earth’s crust in naturally occurring accumulations, including discovered and undiscovered, recoverable and unrecoverable. It is the total estimate, irrespective of whether the gas or oil is commercially recoverable. It’s also the least interesting number for extraction.
On the other hand “recoverable” oil or gas refers to the estimated volume commercially extractable with a specific technically feasible recovery project, a drilling plan, fracking program and the like. The industry breaks the resources into three categories: reserves, which are discovered and commercially recoverable; contingent resources, which are discovered and potentially recoverable but sub-commercial or non-economic in today’s cost-benefit regime; and prospective resources, which are undiscovered and only potentially recoverable.
The Potential Gas Committee (PGC), the standard for US gas resource assessments, uses three categories of technically recoverable gas resources, including shale gas: probable, possible and speculative.
According to careful examination of the numbers it is clear that the President, his advisers and others have taken the PGC’s latest total of all three categories, or 2,170 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas—probable, possible and purely speculative—and divided by the 2010 annual consumption of 24 Tcf. To get a number between 90 and 100 years of gas. What is conveniently left unsaid is that most of that total resource is in accumulations too small to be produced at any price, inaccessible to drilling, or is too deep to recover economically.
Arthur Berman in another analysis points out that if we use more conservative and realistic assumptions such as the PGC does in its detailed assessment, more relevant is the Committee’s probable mean resources value of 550 (Tcf) of gas. In turn, if we estimate, also conservatively and realistically based on experience, that about half of this resource actually becomes a reserve (225 Tcf), then the US has approximately 11.5 years of potential future gas supply at present consumption rates.
If we include proved reserves of 273 Tcf, there is an additional 11.5 years of supply for a total of almost 23 years. It is worth noting that proved reserves include proved undeveloped reserves which may or may not be produced depending on economics, so even 23 years of supply is tenuous. If consumption increases, this supply will be exhausted in less than 23 years.
There are also widely differing estimates within the US Government over shale gas recoverable resources. The US Department of Energy EIA uses a very generous calculation for shale gas average recovery efficiency of 13% versus other conservative estimates of about half that or 7% in contrast to recovery efficiencies of 75-80% for conventional gas fields. The generously high recovery efficiency values used for EIA calculations allows the EIA to project an estimate of 482 tcf of recoverable gas for the US. In August 2011, the Interior Department’s US Geological Survey (USGS) released a far more sober estimate for the large shale plays in Pennsylvania and New York called Marcellus Shale. The USGS estimated there are about 84 trillion cubic feet of technically-recoverable natural gas under the Marcellus Shale. Previous estimates from the Energy Information Administration put the figures at 410 trillion cubic feet.
Shale gas plays show unusually high field decline rates with very steep trends, a combination giving low recovery efficiencies. 
Huge shale gas losses
Given the abnormally rapid well decline rates and low recovery efficiencies, it is little wonder that once the euphoria subsided, shale gas producers found themselves sitting on a financial time-bomb and began selling assets to unwary investors as fast as possible.
In a very recent analysis of the actual results of several years of shale gas extraction in the USA as well as the huge and high-cost Canadian Tar Sands oil, David Hughes notes, “Shale gas production has grown explosively to account for nearly 40 percent of US natural gas production. Nevertheless, production has been on a plateau since December 2011; 80 percent of shale gas production comes from five plays, several of which are in decline. The very high decline rates of shale gas wells require continuous inputs of capital—estimated at $42 billion per year to drill more than 7,000 wells—in order to maintain production. In comparison, the value of shale gas produced in 2012 was just $32.5 billion.”
He adds, “The best shale plays, like the Haynesville (which is already in decline) are relatively rare, and the number of wells and capital input required to maintain production will increase going forward as the best areas within these plays are depleted. High collateral environmental impacts have been followed by pushback from citizens, resulting in moratoriums in New York State and Maryland and protests in other states. Shale gas production growth has been offset by declines in conventional gas production, resulting in only modest gas production growth overall. Moreover, the basic economic viability of many shale gas plays is questionable in the current gas price environment.”
If these various estimates are anywhere near accurate, the USA has a resource in unconventional shale gas of anywhere between 11 years and 23 years duration and unconventional oil of perhaps a decade before entering steep decline. The recent rhetoric about US “energy independence” at the current technological state is utter nonsense.
The drilling boom which resulted in this recent glut of shale gas was in part motivated by “held-by-production” shale lease deals with landowners. In such deals the gas company is required to begin drilling in a lease running typically 3-5 years, or forfeit. In the US landowners such as farmers or ranchers typically hold subsurface mineral rights and can lease them out to oil companies. The gas (or oil) company then is under enormous pressure to book gas reserves on the new leases to support company stock prices on the stock market against which it has borrowed heavily to drill.
This “drill or lose it” pressure typically has led companies to seek the juiciest “sweet spots” for fast spectacular gas flows. These are then typically promoted as “typical” of the entire play.
However, as Hughes points out, “High productivity shale plays are not ubiquitous, and relatively small sweet spots within plays offer the most potential. Six of thirty shale plays provide 88 percent of production. Individual well decline rates are high, ranging from 79 to 95 percent after 36 months. Although some wells can be extremely productive, they are typically a small percentage of the total and are concentrated in sweet spots.” 
One estimate of projected shale gas decline suggests the peak will pass well before the end of the decade, perhaps in four years, followed with a rapid decline in volume
The extremely rapid overall gas field declines require from 30 to 50 percent of production to be replaced annually with more drilling, a classic “tiger chasing its tail around the tree” syndrome. This translates to $42 billion of annual capital investment just to maintain current production. By comparison, all USA shale gas produced in 2012 was worth about $32.5 billion at a gas price of $3.40/mcf (which is higher than actual well head prices for most of 2012). That means about a net $10 billion loss on their shale gambles last year for all US shale gas producers.
Even worse, Hughes points out that capital inputs to offset field decline will necessarily increase going forward as the sweet spots within plays are drilled off and drilling moves to lower quality areas. Average well quality (as measured by initial productivity) has fallen nearly 20 percent in the Haynesville, the most productive shale gas play in the US. And it is falling or flat in eight of the top ten plays. Overall well quality is declining for 36 percent of US shale gas production and is flat for 34 percent.
Not surprising in this context, the major shale gas players have been making massive write-downs of their assets to reflect the new reality. Companies began in 2012 reassessing their reserves and, in the face of a gas spot price that was cut in half between July 2011 and July 2012, are being forced to admit that the long-term outlook for natural-gas prices is not positive. The write-downs have a domino effect as bank lending is typically tied to a company’s reserves meaning many companies are being forced to renegotiate credit lines or make distress asset sales to raise cash.
Beginning August 2012, many large shale gas producers in the US were forced to announce major write-downs of the value of their shale gas assets. BP announced write-downs of $4.8 billion, including a $1 billion-plus reduction in the value of its American shale gas assets. England’s BG Group made a $1.3 billion write-down of its US shale gas interests, and Encana, a large Canadian shale gas operator made a $1.7 billion write-down on shale assets in the US and Canada, accompanied by a warning that more were likely if gas prices did not recover. 
The Australian mining giant BHP Billiton is one of the worst hit in the US shale gas bubble as it came in late and big-time. In May, 2012 it announced it was considering taking impairments on the value its US shale-gas assets which it had bought at the peak of the shale gas boom in 2011, when the company paid $4.75 billion to buy shale projects from Chesapeake Energy and acquiring Petrohawk Energy for $15.1 billion.
But by far the worst hit is the once-superstar of shale gas, Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy.
Part VI: Chesapeake Energy: The Next Enron?
The company by most accounts that typifies this shale gas boom-bust bubble is the much-hailed leading player in shale, Chesapeake Energy. In August 2012 there were widespread rumors that the company would declare bankruptcy. That would have been embarrassing for the company that was the nation’s second largest gas producer. It would also have signaled to the world the hype that was behind promotion of a “shale energy revolution” from the likes of Yergin and the Wall Street energy promoters looking to earn billions on M&A and other deals in the sector to replace their dismal real estate experiences.
In May 2012, Bill Powers of the Powers Energy Investor, wrote of Chesapeake (CHK by its stock symbl): “Over the past year, however, CHK’s business model has broken down. The company’s shares continue to break to 52-week lows and the company has a funding issue—financial speak for the company is running out of money. While it was able to farm-out a portion of its Utica Shale assets in Ohio to France’s Total last year—this is remarkable given the accounting errors that resulted in Total receiving significantly less revenue from their Barnett Shale joint-venture—CHK has largely run out of prospective acreage to farm-out.” Powers estimated a $3 billion cash shortfall in 2012 for the company. That comes atop already huge corporate debt of $11.1 billion of which $1.7 billion was a revolving line of credit. 
Powers adds, “When the off-balance sheet debt and preferred issues are added to the company’s existing $11.1 billion of on-balance sheet debt, CHK’s has a whopping $20.5 billion of financial obligations. Given such a high level of indebtedness, CHK debt is rated junk and will be for the foreseeable future. “ He concludes, “Having America’s second largest natural gas producer as well as its most reckless destroyer of shareholder capital almost completely walk away from the shale gas business is a great indication that today’s natural gas price bubble is on the verge of popping. CHK has not made any money by drilling shale wells—and neither have virtually any of its peers—and now the dumb money has run out.” 
Angry shareholders forced a major shakeup of the Chesapeake board last September after a Reuters report that CEO Aubrey McClendon had been taking out large loans not fully disclosed to the company’s board or investors. McClendon was forced to resign as Chairman of the company he founded after details leaked out that McClendon has borrowed as much as $1.1 billion in the last three years by pledging his stake in the company’s oil and natural gas wells as collateral. In March 2013 the US Government Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it was investigating the company and Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon and had issued subpoenas for information and testimony, among other items looking into a controversial program that grants McClendon a share in every well that Chesapeake drills.
The company is in the midst of a major asset sale of an estimated $6.9 billion to lower debt, including oil and gasfields covering roughly 2.4 million acres. It must invest heavily in drilling new wells to deliver the increased production of more lucrative oil and natural gas liquids, if it is to avoid bankruptcy. As one critical analyst of Chesapeake put it, “the company’s complex accounting methods make it almost impossible for analysts and stockholders to determine what the risks really are. The fact that the CEO is taking out billion-dollar loans and not openly disclosing them only furthers the perception that everything is not as it appears at Chesapeake – that the company is Enron with drilling rigs.” 
The much-touted shale gas revolution in the USA is collapsing along with the stock shares of Chesapeake and other key players.
F. William Engdahl is author of Myths, Lies and Oil Wars. He can be contacted via his website atwww.williamengdahl.com
 Roberta Rampton, Energy Policy Shifting as abundance replaces scarcity: Obama adviser, Reuters, February 25, 2013.
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 Daniel Yergin, Subcommittee on Energy and Power of the House Energy and Commerce Committee
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 Jeff Goodell, Op. Cit.
Some cynics write off citizen action including petitions and sign-carrying protestors. They don’t believe such small efforts can make any big difference. But the more than 600,000 people of Dutch city Rotterdam disagree. Their efforts, which began with a petition, have led to a “green initiative” in their city including the banning of Roundup, Monsanto’s flagship product.
The petition campaign was called “Non-toxic Sidewalks for Our Children.” With support from that country’s Green Party, concerned citizens were able to make a significant change for their city and their future.
As we know, Roundup (glyphosate) is a dangerous pesticide that is used all over the world. Though its maker, Monsanto, would have you believe there’s nothing to be afraid of, research says differently. As a matter of fact, glyphosate has been connected to numerous health problems including respiratory distress, cellular damage, and even cancer. Check out this article which outlines just 7 nasty effects of pesticides.
“It is bad stuff and I’m glad we’re giving it up,” says Emile Cammeraat, Green party leader in the council. “The producer Monsanto also provides genetically engineered seeds, Monsanto’s own plants are the only thing RoundUp doesn’t kill. In such a business district as you want to be, no Roundup is simply necessary, as there are organic alternatives.” (Translated by Fritz Kreiss)
Global consumers are getting wise to the dangers of Roundup and the GMO seeds designed to resist it. They don’t want Monsanto and other GMO-seed giants taking over the global food supply and have started grassroots resistance movements around the world. The problem lies in getting enough people to take actual action against the seed giants and local, state, and federal lawmakers who support them in one way or another.
Collectively, the people of Rotterdam were able to make their voices heard, essentially eliminating glyphosate from their local environment. There’s no reason similar cities in other areas of the world couldn’t do the very same thing.
Comically, the U.S. government has recently decided to increase the allowable amount of glyphosate in U.S. food crops, just as another place bans the substance. The new rule allowing for even greater use of this damaging ingredient would take existing limits on glyphosate and dwarf them with new, higher ones. These limits would truly only work to benefit the interests of one, and it’s not the American people, but Monsanto – the giant corporation who is making millions off of genetically modified crops and the destruction of agriculture and human health.
In addition to the Roundup ban, Rotterdam’s green initiative will provide new parks and play areas, and even get the city involved in planting fruit trees. There will be more flowers and environments to support bees and wildlife, and more places for the urbanites to take in nature without fear of contamination by Monsanto’s evil poster child
Illustration by Peter Ryan / peterthomasryan.com
After hearing that GM crops could potentially increase yields, three farmers in Schmeiser’s region planted fields of Monsanto’s seed. Winds pushed pollen from GM canola into Schmeiser’s fields, and the plants cross-pollinated. The breed he had been cultivating for 50 years was now contaminated by Monsanto’s GM canola.
“They’re a pesticide company that’s bought up seed firms,” says Bill Freese, of the Center for Food Safety.
Research professor Dr. Charles Benbrook found that rapidly increasing seed and pesticide costs were tamping farmers’ income.
Kansas farmer Bryce Stephens had to stop growing organic corn and soybeans for fear of contamination and has 30-foot buffer crops to protect his organic wheat.
“Monsanto and the biotechs need to… keep their pollution on their side of the fence,” says Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen.
Did Monsanto apologize? No. It sued Schmeiser for patent infringement — first charging the farmer per acre of contamination, then slapping him with another suit for $1 million and attempting to seize his land and farming equipment. After a seven-year battle, the Canadian Supreme Court eventually ruled against him but let him keep his farm and his $1 million. He was one of the lucky ones.
Schmeiser’s case illustrates how Monsanto is dominating — and terrifying — the agricultural world with secretive technologies, strong-arm tactics, and government approval. According to the Center for Food Safety, Monsanto has filed at least 142 similar lawsuits against farmers for alleged infringement of its patents or abuse of its technology agreement. The company has won 72 judgments totaling almost $24 million.
Agriculture is a big industry in Florida. About $130 billion-per-year big, the second-largest industry behind tourism. Statewide, 9 million acres of farmland are divided into more than 47,500 commercial farms. In fact, Palm Beach County is the largest agricultural county east of the Mississippi River.
According to the USDA, 95,000 acres of corn, 125,000 acres of upland cotton, and 25,000 acres of soybeans have been planted in the state in 2013. With Food and Water Watch warning that nationally, 90 to 93 percent of such crops are genetically modified, Floridians have cause to know what’s lurking up the food chain.
A Biotech Revolution
When you’re good at something, you want to leverage that. Monsanto’s specialty is killing stuff.
When lawsuits piled up, putting a crimp in long-term profitability, Monsanto hatched a less lethal, more lucrative plan. It would attempt to take control of the world’s food supply.
This mission started in the mid-’90s, when the company began developing genetically modified crops like soybeans, corn, alfalfa, sugar beets, and wheat (much of it used for livestock feed). Monsanto bred crops that were immune to its leading weed killer, Roundup. That meant farmers no longer had to till the land to kill weeds, as they’d done for hundreds of years. They could simply blast their fields with chemicals. The weeds would die while the crops grew unaffected. Problem solved.
Monsanto put a wonderful spin on this development: The so-called “No-Till Revolution” promised greater yields, better profits for the family farm, and a heightened ability to feed a growing world.
But there was a dark side. First, farmers grew dependent on Monsanto, having to buy new seed every year, along with Monsanto’s pesticides. The effects on human health were largely unknown — would it harm people to consume foods whose genetic profile had suddenly changed after millions of years? Or to eat the animals that had consumed those plants? What about ripple effects on ecosystems?
But agriculture had placed the belligerent strongman in charge of the buffet line.
Monsanto squeezed out competitors by buying the biggest seed companies, spending $12 billion on the splurge. The company bought up the best shelf space and distribution channels. Its braying of global benevolence began to look much more like a naked power grab.
Seed prices began to soar. Since 1996, the cost of soybeans has increased 325 percent. Corn has risen 259 percent. And the price of genetically modified cotton has jumped a stunning 516 percent.
Instead of feeding the world, Monsanto drove prices through the roof — taking the biggest share for itself. A study by Dr. Charles Benbrook at Washington State University found that rapidly increasing seed and pesticide costs were tamping farmers’ income, cutting them from any benefits of the new technology.
Still, Monsanto was doing its best to make them play along. It offered steep discounts to independent dealers willing to restrict themselves to selling mostly Monsanto products. These same contracts brought severe punishment if independents ever sold out to a rival. U.S. regulators showed little concern for Monsanto’s expanding power.
“They’re a pesticide company that’s bought up seed firms,” says Bill Freese, a scientist at the Center for Food Safety. “Businesswise, it’s a beautiful, really smart strategy. It’s just awful for agriculture and the environment.”
Today, Monsanto seeds cover 40 percent of America’s crop acres — and 27 percent worldwide. The company makes nearly $8 billion per year.
“If you put control over plant and genetic resources into the hands of the private sector… and anybody thinks that plant breeding is still going to be used to solve society’s real problems and to advance food security, I have a bridge to sell them,” says Benbrook.
Seeds of Destruction
It didn’t used to be like this. At one time, seed companies were just large-scale farmers who grew various strains for next year’s crop. Most of the innovative hybrids and cross-breeding was done the old-fashioned way at public universities. The results were shared publicly.
“It was done in a completely open-sourced way,” says Benbrook. “Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture exchanged all sort of seeds with other scientists and researchers all over the world. This free trade and exchange of plant genetic resources was the foundation of progress in plant breeding. And in less than a decade, it was over.”
The first crack appeared in 1970, when Congress empowered the USDA to grant exclusive marketing rights to novel strains — with the exception that farmers could replant the seeds if they chose and patented varieties must be provided to researchers.
But that wasn’t enough. Corporations wanted more control, and they got it with a dramatic, landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1980 that allowed the patenting of living organisms. The decision was intended to increase research and innovation. But it did the opposite, encouraging market concentration.
Monsanto, which declined an interview request for this article, would soon gobble up every rival seed company in sight. It patented the best seeds for genetic engineering, leaving only the inferior for sale as non-GM brands.
Syngenta and DuPont both sued, accusing Monsanto of monopolistic practices and a “scorched earth campaign.” But instead of bringing reform, the chemical giants reached settlements that granted them licenses to use, sell, and cross-develop Monsanto products. (Some DuPont suits still drag on today.)
It wasn’t until 2009 that the Justice Department, working in concert with several state attorneys general, began investigating the company for antitrust violations. But three years later, the feds quietly dropped the case. (They also ignored interview requests for this article.)
Dr. Peter Carstensen, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School, said some states were interested in pursuing the case and “some of the staff in the antitrust division wanted to do something, but top management — you say the word ‘patent’ and they panic.”
Set the Lawyers to Stun
Historically, farmers were able to save money on seeds by using those produced by last year’s crops for the coming year’s planting. But because Monsanto owns patents on its genetically modified strains, it forces farmers to buy new seeds every year.
Armed with lawyers and private investigators, the company has embarked on a campaign of spying and intimidation to stop any farmer from replanting his seeds.
Farmers call them the “seed police,” using words such as “Gestapo” and “Mafia” to describe Monsanto’s tactics. The company’s agents fan out into small towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants. Some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records.
In one case, Monsanto accused Indiana farmer David Runyon of using its soybean seeds, despite documented fact that he’d bought nonpatented seed from local universities for years. While attempting to pressure Runyon, Monsanto’s lawyer claimed the company had an agreement with the Indiana Department of Agriculture to search his land.
One problem: Indiana didn’t have a Department of Agriculture at the time. Like most Monsanto investigations, the case never went to trial and would appear to be more about intimidation than anything. Runyon incurred substantial costs defending himself without having done anything wrong. In 2006, the Center for Food Safety estimated that Monsanto had pressured as many as 4,500 farmers into paying settlements worth as much as $160 million.
Yet Monsanto wanted even more leverage. So it naturally turned to Congress.
Earlier this year, a little-noticed provision was slipped into a budget resolution. The measure, pushed by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri), granted the company an unheard-of get-out-of-jail-free card, which critics derisively dubbed “The Monsanto Protection Act.”
There have been some indications of adverse health effects, but Monsanto has largely kept its products from researchers. Long-term studies have been limited, but scientists have found greater prevalence of tumors and digestive problems in rats fed GM corn and potatoes, and digestive issues for livestock eating GM feed. Those who have published studies critical of GM have been besieged by industry-funded critics disputing their finding, assailing their professional reputations, and effectively muddying the water. The feds have never bothered to extensively study GM foods. Instead, they’ve basically taken Monsanto’s word that all is kosher. So organic farmers and their allies sued the company in 2009, claiming too little study had been done on Monsanto’s GM sugar beets.
A year later, a judge agreed, ordering all recently planted GM sugar beet crops destroyed until their environmental impact was studied.
The Monsanto Protection Act was designed to end such rulings. It essentially bars judges from intervening in the midst of lawsuits — a notion that would seem highly unconstitutional.
Not that Congress noticed. Monsanto’s spent more than $10 million on campaign contributions during the past decade — plus another $70 million on lobbying since 1998. The money speaks so loudly, Congress has become tone-deaf.
In fact, the U.S. government has become Monsanto’s de facto lobbyist in countries distrustful of GM safety. Two years ago, WikiLeaks released diplomatic cables showing how the feds had lobbied foreign governments to weaken laws and encourage the planting of genetically modified crops in Third World countries.
Other wires from State Department diplomats ask for money to fly in corporate flacks to lean on government officials. Even Mr. Environment, former Vice President Al Gore, was key in getting France to briefly approve Monsanto’s GM corn.
These days, the company has infiltrated the highest levels of government. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is a former Monsanto lawyer, and the company’s former and current employees are in high-level posts at the USDA and FDA.
But the real coup came in 2010, when President Obama appointed former Monsanto Vice President Michael Taylor as the FDA’s new deputy commissioner for foods. It was akin to making George Zimmerman the czar of gun safety.
Trust Us. Why Would We Lie?
At the same time Monsanto was cornering the food supply, its principal products — GM crops — were receiving less scrutiny than an NSA contractor.
Monsanto understood early on the best way to stave off bad publicity was to suppress independent research. Until recently, when negotiating an agreement with major universities, the company had severely restricted access to its seeds by requiring researchers to apply for a license and get approval from the company about any proposed research. The documentary Scientists Under Attack: Genetic Engineering in the Magnetic Field of Money noted that nearly 95 percent of genetic engineering research is paid for and controlled by corporations like Monsanto.
Meanwhile, former employees embedded in government make sure the feds never get too nosy.
Meet Michael Taylor. He’s gone back and forth from government to Monsanto enough times that it’s not a revolving door; it’s a Bat-pole. During an early-’90s stint with the FDA, he helped usher bovine growth hormone milk into the food supply and wrote the decision that kept the government out of Monsanto’s GM crop business.
Known as “substantial equivalence,” this policy declared that genetically modified products are essentially the same as their non-GM counterparts — and therefore require no additional labeling, food safety, or toxicity tests. Never mind that no accepted science backed his theory.
“It’s simply a political calculation invented by Michael Taylor and Monsanto and adopted by U.S. federal policymakers to resist labeling,” says Jim Gerritsen, a Maine farmer. “You have this collusion between corporations and the government, and the essence is that the people’s interest isn’t being served.”
The FDA approves GM crops by doing no testing of its own but by simply taking Monsanto’s word for their safety. Amusingly, Monsanto agrees that it should have nothing to do with verifying safety, says spokesman Phil Angell. “Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.”
So if neither Monsanto nor the feds is ensuring that the food supply is safe, who is?
The answer: No one.
We’ve Got Bigger Problems Now
So far, it appears the GM movement has done little more than raise the cost of food.
A 2009 study by Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman looked at four Monsanto seeds and found only minimal increases in yield. And since GM crops cost more to produce, their economic benefits are questionable at best.
“It pales in comparison to other conventional approaches,” says Gurian-Sherman. “It’s a lot more expensive, and it comes with a lot of baggage that goes with it, like pesticide use, monopoly issues, and control of the seed supply.”
Meanwhile, the use of pesticides has soared as weeds and insects become increasingly resistant to these death sprays. Since GM crops were introduced in 1996, pesticide use has increased by 404 million pounds. Last year, Syngenta, one of the world’s largest pesticide makers, reported that sales of its major corn soil insecticide more than doubled in 2012, a response to increased resistance to Monsanto’s pesticides.
Part of the blame belongs to a monoculture that developed around farming. Farmers know it’s better to rotate the crops and pesticides and leave fields fallow for a season. But when corn prices are high, who wants to grow a less profitable crop? The result’s been soil degradation, relatively static yields, and an epidemic of weed and insect resistance.
Weeds and insects are fighting back with their own law — the law of natural selection. Last year, 49 percent of surveyed farmers reported Roundup-resistant weeds on their farms, up from 34 percent the year before. The problem costs farmers more than $1 billion annually.
Nature, as it’s proved so often before, will not be easily vanquished.
Pests like Roundup-resistant pigweed can grow thick as your arm and more than six feet high, requiring removal by hand. Many farmers simply abandon fields that have been infested with it. Pigweed has infested Florida cotton fields, and farmers are now using old pesticides on top of Roundup to combat it.
To kill these adaptive pests, chemical giants like Monsanto and Dow are developing crops capable of withstanding even harsher pesticides. It’s producing an endless cycle of greater pesticide use at commensurate financial and environmental cost.
“It’s not about stewardship of the land,” says Thomas Earnshaw, sustainable farmer, educator, and founder of Outlaw Farmers in the Florida Panhandle. “The north Panhandle is probably the most contaminated land in the state — because of the monoculture farming with all the cotton and soy, both are “Roundup Ready” [GM crops]. They’re just spraying chemical herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers into the soil, it’s getting into the water table, and farmers aren’t even making any more money — biotech is.”
Next Stop… the World!
The biggest problem for Monsanto’s global growth: It doesn’t have the same juice with foreign governments as it does with ours. That’s why it relies on the State Department to work as its taxpayer-funded lobbyist abroad.
Yet that’s becoming increasingly difficult. Other nations aren’t as willing to play corporate water boy as America is. The countries that need GM seeds often can’t afford them (or don’t trust Monsanto). And the nations that can afford them (other than us) don’t really want them (or don’t trust Monsanto).
Though the European Union imports 30 million tons of GM crops annually for livestock feed, it’s approved only two GM crops for human consumption. Although Brazil is poised to become the world’s largest soybean exporter on the strength of Monsanto seed, thousands of farmers there are suing Monsanto for more than $600 million after the company continued to charge them royalties two years after the expiration of its patent. Ecuador and Peru have shied away from GM crops. And even in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, Haiti mistrusted Monsanto so much that it declined its offer of seeds, even with assurances that the seed wasn’t GM.
In April, biotech companies took another hit when the European Union banned neonicotinoids — AKA “neo-nics” — one of the most powerful and popular insecticides in the world. It’s a derivative of nicotine that’s quite poisonous to plants and insects. German giant Bayer CropScience and Syngenta both make neo-nics, which are used to coat seeds, protecting crops in their early growth stage. In America, 90 percent of America’s corn crop comes with the coating.
The problem is that plants sweat these chemicals out in the morning dew, where they’re picked up by bees like a morning cup of Starbucks. Last year, a study linked neo-nics to the collapse of bee colonies, which threatens the entire food system. One-quarter of the human diet is pollinated by bees.
The mysterious collapse of colonies — in which bees simply fly off and die — has been reported as far back as 1918. Yet over the past seven years, mortality rates have tripled. Some U.S. regions are witnessing the death of more than half their populations, especially at corn planting time.
Last year’s study indicates a link to Monsanto’s GM corn, which has been widely treated with neo-nics since 2005.
But while other countries run from the problem, the U.S. government is content to let its citizens serve as guinea pigs. Beekeepers, though, are starting to fight back. This year, two separate lawsuits have been filed against the EPA demanding a more stringent risk assessment process and labeling laws for pesticides.
What’s Mine Is Yours
The same worries apply to contamination from GM crops. Ask Frank Morton, who grows organic sugar beet seeds in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and is among the few non-GM holdouts.
In 2010, a federal judge demanded farmers stop planting GM sugar beets. Farmers were surprised to find there was very little non-GM sugar-beet seed to be had. Since being introduced in 2005, Monsanto had driven just about everyone out of the market.
Morton’s farm is just two miles from a GM sugar beet farm. Unfortunately, beet pollen can travel as much as five miles, cross-pollinating other farmers’ fields and, in the case of an organic farmer, threatening his ability to sell his crop as organic and GM-free.
Morton has to worry about his fields because GM crops have perverted long-standing property law. Organic farmers are responsible for protecting their farms from contamination, since courts have consistently refused to hold GM growers liable.
Kansas farmer Bryce Stephens had to stop growing organic corn and soybeans for fear of contamination and has 30-foot buffer crops to protect his organic wheat. (Wheat pollen doesn’t travel far.)
“Monsanto and the biotechs need to respect traditional property rights and need to keep their pollution on their side of the fence,” says Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen. “If it was anything but agriculture, nobody would question it. If I decided to spray my house purple and I sprayed on a day that was windy and my purple paint drifted onto your house and contaminated your siding and shingles, there isn’t a court in the nation that wouldn’t in two minutes find me guilty of irresponsibly damaging your property. But when it comes to agriculture, all of a sudden the tables are turned.”
Contamination isn’t just about boutique organic brands. It maims U.S. exports too.
Take Bayer, which grew experimental, GM rice — that was unapproved for cultivation and for human consumption — at test plots around Louisiana State University for just one year. Within five years, these test plots had contaminated 30 percent of U.S. rice acreage. No one’s certain how it happened, but Bayer’s rice was found as far away as Central America and Africa.
Within days of the USDA announcement that this untested GM rice had gotten loose, rice futures lost $150 million in value, while U.S. rice exports dropped by 20 percent during the next year. And Bayer ended up paying farmers $750 million in damages.
Last month brought another hit. A Monsanto test of GM wheat mysteriously contaminated an Oregon farm eight years after the test was shut down. Japan and South Korea immediately halted imports of U.S. soft white wheat — a particularly harsh pill for the Japanese, who have used our white wheat in almost all cakes and confectionary since the 1960s.
Monsanto’s response? It’s blaming the whole mess on eco-terrorists.
Just Label It
Trish Sheldon moved to Florida in 2001, but the bubbly blond still exudes a cool, friendly California air. In 2010, she started a state chapter of Millions Against Monsanto, then in 2011 founded a group called GMO-Free Florida to raise awareness of the risks of GMOs and push for mandatory labeling initiatives.
With Monsanto seeds covering more than 40 percent of America’s crop acres (a March study found that 86 percent of corn, 88 percent of cotton, and 93 percent of soybeans grown here are of a GM variety) and the agri-giant making an expected $7.65 billion profit this year, it’s doubtful the company will go away anytime soon. But as consumers become more aware of the sinister problems lurking in the food chain, activists in many states are pushing for laws that would require foods with GM ingredients to be labeled, much as foods with trans fats are.
More than 23 right-to-know groups have since popped up throughout Florida especially after California’s push for mandatory labeling legislation, called Proposition 37, failed last year. Chemical companies defeated the initiative, thanks to a $46 million publicity campaign full of deceptive statements.
“Even though there were lies and deceit by the biotech industry, that was the catalyst,” Sheldon says. “People were so pissed off that it failed [and] we started gaining steam.” This May, during a global day of action, more than 2 million protesters attended rallies in more than 400 cities across 52 countries. In Miami, organizers lost count when protesters topped 1,300.
“If they’re going to allow the American people to be lab rats in an experiment, could they at least know where it is from so they can decide whether they want to participate or not?” asks Lance Harvell, a Republican state representative from Maine who sponsored a GM labeling law this year. “If the FDA isn’t going to do their job, it’s time we stepped in.”
Maine is just the second state (nine days after Connecticut) to pass such a law. When Vermont raised the issue a year ago, a Monsanto official indicated the company might sue. So the new laws in both Maine and Connecticut won’t take effect until other states pass similar legislation so they can share defense costs.
In Florida, state Sen. Maria Lorts Sachs and House Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel-Vasilinda have sponsored similar bills — but neither version made it to committee. Both intend to revise and resubmit bills in the next legislative session, in January 2014.
“God gave the seed to the earth and the fruit to the trees,” Harvell says. “Notice it didn’t say he granted Monsanto a patent. The human body has developed with its seeds. You’re making a major leap into Pandora’s box, a quantum leap that maybe the human body isn’t ready to make yet.”
As more information comes out, it’s increasingly clear that GM seed isn’t the home run it’s portrayed to be. It encourages greater pesticide use, which has a negative impact on the environment and our bodies. Whether or not GM food is safe to eat, it poses a real threat to biodiversity through monopolization of the seed industry and the kind of industrial farming monoculture this inspires.
Meanwhile, a study by the University of Canterbury in England found that non-GM crops in America and Europe are increasing their yields faster than GM crops.
“All this talk about feeding the world, it’s really PR,” explains Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The hope is to get into these new markets, force farmers to pay for seed, then start changing the food and eating habits of the developing world.”
But as much as he hates GM, Kansas farmer Stephens is sanguine. “I’ve seen changes since I was little to where it is now,” he says. “I don’t think it will last. This land and these people here have gone through cycles of boom and bust. We’re just in another cycle, and it will be something different.”
Providing we don’t irreparably break it first.
Additional reporting by Sara Ventiera.
Medieval Irish scholars: What can’t they do for us? Having already “saved civilization,” they’re now providing important insights into how geological activity can cause weather events, expanding our understanding of global climate change.
In a paper published by Environmental Research Letters, a team of U.S. and Irish researchers use the Irish Annals — documents of recorded events written by scribes in Irish monasteries from the fifth to the 17th centuries — as a dataset for the occurence of rare weather events. Specifically, the authors are interested in evidence for the theory that atmospheric ash from volcanic eruptions was responsible for known climate anomalies from the period — in particular the so-called “little ice age.”
The Irish accounts are particularly useful because of their descriptive detail and specificity of dates. In total, 83 unique cold events were reported in the Annals, 65 of which were considered reliable.
Here’s one such account from the Annals of Ulster, written in 818:
There was abnormal ice and much snow from the Epiphany to Shrovetide. The Boyne and other rivers were crossed dry-footed; lakes likewise. Herds and hunting-parties were on Loch Neagh,(and) wild deer were hunted. The materials for an oratory were afterwards brought by a large company from the lands of Connacht over Upper and Lower Loch Erne into [Leinster]; and other unusual things were done in the frost and hail.
And from the Annals of Connacht in 1465:
Exceeding great frost and snow and stormy weather this year, so that no herb grew in the ground and no leaf budded on a tree until the feast of St. Brendan, but a man, if he were the stronger, would forcibly carry away the food from the priest in church, even though he had the Sacred Body in his hands and stood clothed in Mass-vestments.
The authors found that 53.6 percent of the identified cold events correspond with known volcanic events, which they say is nearly impossible to attribute to coincidence.
Why does this matter? The authors write that “determining the extent to which human activity drives future climatic variation requires knowledge of past climate, allowing us us to ascertain the boundaries of natural variability and to test the veracity of models preciting future climate.” Developing accurate climate records for particular regions can tell us more about how “individuals and societies experience climate and plan for extreme weather.” These days we’re more worried about unusual warming than cooling, but the local priests may still want to keep an eye on the kitchen during the Feast of St. Brendan.
Can we get the Irish monks on the eurozone crisis next?
Via National Affairs
Federal officials said that a criminal information charging Halliburton with one count of destruction of evidence was filed in federal court.
Halliburton has agreed to pay the maximum fine, be on probation for three years and continue to co-operate with the government’s criminal investigation, said the news release, which did not specify the fine amount. The Texas-based company has also made a voluntary 55 million dollar (£35 million) contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Halliburton was oil giant BP’s cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded after a well blow-out, killing 11 workers and spilling millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.
Around May 2010, the company directed a programme manager “to run two computer simulations of the Macondo well final cementing job using Halliburton’s Displace 3D simulation programme to compare the impact of using six versus 21 centralisers”, the news release said.
Halliburton recommended to BP the use of 21 centralisers in the well, but BP decided to use six instead, said the news release. The simulations indicated there was little difference between using six and 21 centralisers, but the programme manager “was directed to, and did, destroy these results”, federal officials say.
Similar evidence was destroyed in a subsequent incident in June 2010, said the Justice Department.
The news release said: “Efforts to forensically recover the original destroyed Displace 3D computer simulations during ensuing civil litigation and federal criminal investigation by the Deepwater Horizon Task Force were unsuccessful. In agreeing to plead guilty, Halliburton has accepted criminal responsibility for destroying the aforementioned evidence.”
The plea agreement and criminal charge both arise from a criminal investigation by the Deepwater Horizon Task Force. Halliburton and BP have blamed each other for the failure of the cement job to seal the Macondo well.
During a trial, BP asked a federal judge to sanction Halliburton for allegedly destroying evidence about the role that its cement slurry design could have played in the blow-out. The company announced in April it was trying to negotiate a settlement over its role in the disaster.
July 2013by John Donovan.
No one disputes that cancer-causing benzene, explosive methane and other hazardous compounds are present in the abandoned oil waste. But while Shell’s testers argue the chemicals don’t pose major health risks, residents and the investigators representing them say that people and pets have become sick and died from a spectrum of illnesses as a result of living in the community.
By Sandy Mazza, Staff Writer: Posted: 07/19/2013
Carson is on the verge of declaring a local emergency to spur more rapid cleanup of its environmentally contaminated Carousel housing tract, which sits on a former oil tank farm that left untold amounts of petroleum just a few feet below the neighborhood’s 285 homes.
The city filed a claim for damages this week in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that Shell Oil Co. is trespassing and creating a public nuisance that is causing injury. On Thursday night, council members told staff to prepare an emergency resolution seeking immediate remediation of the problem.
“Five years is long enough,” Councilman Mike Gipson said. “The people of Carousel tract need some answers now. When will this be resolved? And how? No one is answering that. Everyone is passing the buck while people’s lives are hanging in the balance. It’s not fair.”
It isn’t clear how the regulatory agency overseeing the cleanup — the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board — will respond to Carson’s declaration. Officials have known about the problem for five years and, as it stands now, actual cleanup won’t begin until next year at the earliest.
“It’s really expressing the city’s concern about the state of the current environmental investigation,” Carson Planning Officer Sheri Repp-Loadsman said. “We’re looking at the best ways to use the (local emergency) resolution as a tool.”
The council will consider adopting the emergency resolution at or before its Aug. 6 meeting, Repp-Loadsman said.
Two years ago, the regional water board ordered Shell to clean the soil to a depth of 10 feet below the residential community. Since then, the company has conducted extensive testing inside homes and below ground to determine whether the oil is turning into hazardous vapors.
No one disputes that cancer-causing benzene, explosive methane and other hazardous compounds are present in the abandoned oil waste. But while Shell’s testers argue the chemicals don’t pose major health risks, residents and the investigators representing them say that people and pets have become sick and died from a spectrum of illnesses as a result of living in the community.
The oil was discovered during soil testing in 2008 near the 50-acre community on the city’s southernmost boundary, near Wilmington. Soon after it was found, Shell investigators began tests to determine how bad the contamination was.
The crude stems from the tank farm that occupied the land from the 1920s through 1966, when construction began on the Carousel tract. Shell used the area to store crude oil and, when the company vacated the property, it demolished oil reservoirs and left the rubble and waste petroleum in the ground. Though the tanks reached a below-ground depth of roughly 10 feet, the oil has leaked at least 50 feet below ground, investigators said.
Since 2008, residents have been warned not to let their children play in backyards. Rigorous testing has temporarily displaced homeowners while investigators take over their homes to test the air quality and sub-slab vapors. In the past year, Shell’s pilot tests have dug up front yards, exposing smelly, oil-soaked soil. The water board has required Shell to submit a so-called Remedial Action Plan by the end of this year to outline the steps it will take to clean the soil and its time line. The actual cleanup is scheduled to begin once the water board approves that plan.
However, attorneys representing the residents and the city argue that Shell’s tentative plan to clean soil to a depth of 10 feet below some homes — and only on land that isn’t developed — is extremely flawed.
The July 16 complaint was filed on behalf of the city by Girardi and Keese, the same law firm representing residents suing Shell. Girardi and Keese and its investigator, Erin Brockovich, battled PG&E in a contamination case involving the desert town of Hinkley, Calif., that was dramatized in a 2000 feature film.
The complaint demands “full and total abatement of the contamination down to approximately 40 feet below the Carousel neighborhood.”
Bob Finnerty, an attorney with Girardi and Keese, said several complaints have already been filed on behalf of 1,008 clients who say they have been physically and financially harmed by living in the neighborhood.
“The soil is contaminated down to 50 feet,” Finnerty said. “The water board is exploring the removal of 10 feet to determine whether or not that would be sufficient. The reality is that would be a simple Band-Aid procedure and, in a few years, residents would have the identical problem of vapor intrusion into their homes.”
@sandymazza on Twitter
“Control the oil, and you control nations. Control the food, and you control the people.”* –Henry Kissenger
“Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation” by F. William Engdahl is a skillfully researched book that focuses on how a small socio-political American elite seeks to establish control over the very basis of human survival: the provision of our daily bread.
This is no ordinary book about the perils of GMO. Engdahl takes the reader inside the corridors of power, into the backrooms of the science labs, behind closed doors in the corporate boardrooms. The author cogently reveals a diabolical world of profit-driven political intrigue, government corruption and coercion, where genetic manipulation and the patenting of life forms are used to gain worldwide control over food production. If the book often reads as a crime story, that should come as no surprise. For that is what it is.
Engdahl’s carefully argued critique goes far beyond the familiar controversies surrounding the practice of genetic modification as a scientific technique. The book is an eye-opener, a must-read for all those committed to the causes of social justice and world peace.
What follows is the Preface to ”Seeds of Destruction: The Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation” by F. William Engdahl (available through Global Research):
“We have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so,we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives.We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.”
-George Kennan, US State Department senior planning official, 1948
This book is about a project undertaken by a small socio-political elite, centered, after the Second World War, not in London, but in Washington. It is the untold story of how this self-anointed elite set out, in Kennan’s words, to “maintain this position of disparity.” It is the story of how a tiny few dominated the resources and levers of power in the postwar world.
It’s above all a history of the evolution of power in the control of a select few, in which even science was put in the service of that minority. As Kennan recommended in his 1948 internal memorandum, they pursued their policy relentlessly, and without the “luxury of altruism and world-benefaction.”
Yet, unlike their predecessors within leading circles of the British Empire, this emerging American elite, who proclaimed proudly at war’s end the dawn of their American Century, were masterful in their use of the rhetoric of altruism and world-benefaction to advance their goals. Their American Century paraded as a softer empire, a “kinder, gentler” one in which, under the banner of colonial liberation, freedom, democracy and economic development, those elite circles built a network of power the likes of which the world had not seen since the time of Alexander the Great some three centuries before Christ—a global empire unified under the military control of a sole superpower, able to decide on a whim, the fate of entire nations.
This book is the sequel to a first volume, A Century ofWar: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order. It traces a second thin red line of power. This one is about the control over the very basis of human survival, our daily provision of bread. The man who served the interests of the postwar American-based elite during the 1970’s, and came to symbolize its raw realpolitik, was Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Sometime in the mid-1970’s, Kissinger, a life-long practitioner of “Balance of Power” geopolitics and a man with more than a fair share of conspiracies under his belt, allegedly declared his blueprint for world domination: “Control the oil and you control nations. Control the food, and you control the people.”
The strategic goal to control global food security had its roots decades earlier, well before the outbreak of war in the late 1930’s. It was funded, often with little notice, by select private foundations, which had been created to preserve the wealth and power of a handful of American families.
Originally the families centered their wealth and power in New York and along the East Coast of the United States, from Boston to New York to Philadelphia and Washington D.C. For that reason, popular media accounts often referred to them, sometimes with derision but more often with praise, as the East Coast Establishment.
The center of gravity of American power shifted in the decades following the War. The East Coast Establishment was overshadowed by new centers of power which evolved from Seattle to Southern California on the Pacific Coast, as well as in Houston, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Miami, just as the tentacles of American power spread to Asia and Japan, and south, to the nations of Latin America.
In the several decades before and immediately following World War II, one family came to symbolize the hubris and arrogance of this emerging American Century more than any other. And the vast fortune of that family had been built on the blood of many wars, and on their control of a new “black gold,” oil.
What was unusual about this family was that early on in the building of their fortune, the patriarchs and advisors they cultivated to safeguard their wealth decided to expand their influence over many very different fields. They sought control not merely over oil, the emerging new energy source for world economic advance. They also expanded their influence over the education of youth, medicine and psychology, foreign policy of the United States, and, significant for our story, over the very science of life itself, biology, and its applications in the world of plants and agriculture.
For the most part, their work passed unnoticed by the larger population, especially in the United States. Few Americans were aware how their lives were being subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, influenced by one or another project financed by the immense wealth of this family.
In the course of researching for this book, a work nominally on the subject of genetically modified organisms or GMO, it soon became clear that the history of GMO was inseparable from the political history of this one very powerful family, the Rockefeller family, and the four brothers—David,Nelson, Laurance and John D. III—who, in the three decades following American victory in World War II, the dawn of the much-heralded American Century, shaped the evolution of power George Kennan referred to in 1948.
In actual fact, the story of GMO is that of the evolution of power in the hands of an elite, determined at all costs to bring the entire world under their sway.
Three decades ago, that power was based around the Rockefeller family. Today, three of the four brothers are long-since deceased, several under peculiar circumstances.However, as was their will, their project of global domination—“full spectrum dominance” as the Pentagon later called it—had spread, often through a rhetoric of “democracy,” and was aided from time to time by the raw military power of that empire when deemed necessary. Their project evolved to the point where one small power group, nominally headquartered in Washington in the early years of the new century, stood determined to control future and present life on this planet to a degree never before dreamed of.
The story of the genetic engineering and patenting of plants and other living organisms cannot be understood without looking at the history of the global spread of American power in the decades following World War II. George Kennan, Henry Luce, Averell Harriman and, above all, the four Rockefeller brothers, created the very concept of multinational “agribusiness”. They financed the “Green Revolution” in the agriculture sector of developing countries in order, among other things, to create new markets for petro-chemical fertilizers and petroleum products, as well as to expand dependency on energy products. Their actions are an inseparable part of the story of genetically modified crops today.
By the early years of the new century, it was clear that no more than four giant chemical multinational companies had emerged as global players in the game to control patents on the very basic food products that most people in the world depend on for their daily nutrition—corn, soybeans, rice, wheat, even vegetables and fruits and cotton—as well as new strains of disease-resistant poultry, genetically-modified to allegedly resist the deadly H5N1 Bird Flu virus, or even gene altered pigs and cattle. Three of the four private companies had decades-long ties to Pentagon chemical warfare research. The fourth, nominally Swiss, was in reality Anglodominated. As with oil, so was GMO agribusiness very much an Anglo-American global project.
In May 2003, before the dust from the relentless US bombing and destruction of Baghdad had cleared, the President of the United States chose to make GMO a strategic issue, a priority in his postwar US foreign policy. The stubborn resistance of the world’s second largest agricultural producer, the European Union, stood as a formidable barrier to the global success of the GMO Project. As long as Germany, France, Austria, Greece and other countries of the European Union steadfastly refused to permit GMO planting for health and scientific reasons, the rest of the world’s nations would remain skeptical and hesitant. By early 2006, the World Trade Organization (WTO) had forced open the door of the European Union to the mass proliferation of GMO. It appeared that global success was near at hand for the GMO Project.
In the wake of the US and British military occupation of Iraq, Washington proceeded to bring the agriculture of Iraq under the domain of patented genetically-engineered seeds, initially supplied through the generosity of the US State Department and Department of Agriculture.
The first mass experiment with GMO crops, however, took place back in the early 1990’s in a country whose elite had long since been corrupted by the Rockefeller family and associated New York banks: Argentina.
The following pages trace the spread and proliferation of GMO, often through political coercion, governmental pressure, fraud, lies, and even murder. If it reads often like a crime story, that should not be surprising. The crime being perpetrated in the name of agricultural efficiency, environmental friendliness and solving the world hunger problem, carries stakes which are vastly more important to this small elite. Their actions are not solely for money or for profit. After all, these powerful private families decide who controls the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan and even the European Central Bank. Money is in their hands to destroy or create.
Their aim is rather, the ultimate control over future life on this planet, a supremacy earlier dictators and despots only ever dreamt of. Left unchecked, the present group behind the GMO Project is between one and two decades away from total dominance of the planet’s food capacities. This aspect of the GMO story needs telling. I therefore invite the reader to a careful reading and independent verification or reasoned refutation of what follows.
F. William Engdahl is a leading analyst of the New World Order, author of the best-selling book on oil and geopolitics, A Century of War: Anglo-American Politics and the New World Order,’ His writings have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Frederick Kaufman has penned a provocative article for Slate’s Future Tense column in which he makes the case for open-source genetically modified foods. “It will help fight climate change,” he says, “and stick one in Monsanto‘s eye.” What’s more, it’s an approach that still favors scientific advancement.
Kaufman says that GMOs have increased agriculture’s dependance on expensive “inputs” — the proprietary seeds and herbicides that have made multinationals like Monsanto and Dow so profitable. At the same time, transgenic crops are increasingly being perceived as a source of genetic pollution.
“The GMO story has become mired in the eco-wrecking narrative of industrial agriculture,” he writes, “and that is too bad for those who understand the real risks of climate change and discern our desperate need for innovation.”
The answer, says Kaufman, is to go open-source. He writes:
GMO agriculture relies on the relatively new science of bioinformatics (a mixture of bio- and information science), which means that DNA sequences look a lot more like software code than a vegetable garden. And if Monsanto is the Microsoft of food supply—raking in the rent on bites instead of bytes—perhaps the time has come for the agricultural equivalent of Linux, the open-source operating system that made computer programming a communal effort.
Kaufman says that food justice activists have been trying to undermine Monsanto’s market share through consumer advocacy and political reform. But it’s also possible, he says, to be against big-agriculture and for scientific advancement:
Open-source is the quickest way to undermine proprietary rights to food molecules, those rights that guarantee profit streams for transnationals while condemning the earth to a monocultural future of agriculture with no regard for agroecology. For the surest way to sabotage Monsanto is not to label but to sap its income. Already, a number of biotech pioneers have followed the open-source examples of Apache and Wikipedia. The database of the human genome mapping project has been free since it was published in 2003. The genetic map of rice has been made available at no charge to researchers worldwide. And the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has made its “Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture” a transnational paradigm of free-flowing information. Agricultural researchers in developing countries need not pay a penny to review all the latest life science research published in more than 3,000 academic journals.
Like open-source software, open-source food genetics would advance biological research in this country, and our universities would soon become hothouses of innovation. Intellectual production without intellectual property would thrive, as scientists gained access to DNA code in all its infinite variety, along with the freedom to create derivative work and redistribute findings. No great leap of faith would be required, as open-source is one of food’s oldest dynamics. There’s no patent on a roast chicken, and the derivative work of Momofuku founder David Chang does not owe a fee to Marcella Hazan, Julia Child, or Colonel Sanders. Chefs and their recipes have long constituted a creative commons.
There’s lots more to Kaufman’s article, so be sure to read it all at Slate.
Image credit: Ira Bostic / Shutterstock.com. Inset image: Nigel Treblin/AFP/Getty Images.
Now Superintendent Thomas Murphy has approached OSSL saying that he is going to investigate. He has presented himself “as an independent person to the ongoing issues in Co Mayo” with clean hands. I can only guess that he did not receive a share of the free booze received from Shell by hundreds of his fellow County Mayo Garda police officers. With all due respect to Superintendent Murphy, he can hardly be described as “independent”. However, if Superintendent Murphy decides to press ahead, the first person he should approach is Detective Chief Superintendent John Gilligan. He should ask Gilligan if he personally helped unload a delivery of alcohol at Bellmullet Garda station. (He did) If Gilligan declines to answer without first seeking advice from his lawyer, that alone would speak volumes. Superintendent Murphy may also wish to ask Gilligan and the other Garda who offloaded the free booze, who paid for it, who delivered it and who ended up drinking it?
By John Donovan
We have already published several articles about Shell’s corruption of the Irish Police Force, the Garda.
Shell has spent almost €100,000 at legitimate retail value on supplying free alcohol (brought across the border) to quell the thirst of hundreds of Garda officers involved in supposedly policing the controversial Corrib Gas Project on an impartial basis. Complaints have been made over the past several years by environmental campaigners and members of the local population all alleging that the police are working for Shell.
The Garda is currently the subject of public ridicule on YouTubeover the Shell alcohol corruption scandal.
Shell used a small local company, OSSL, as a “Mr Fixit” to ease the progress of the much hated pipeline by spreading gifts around where deemed necessary, for example on land owners.
To hide what was going on, invoices were falsified and OSSL had to hand over to Shell receipts for goods purchased for distribution to the lucky recipients, such as the free booze showered on County Mayo police.
Now more revelations:
- OSSL allege that Terry Nolan, when Chief Executive of Shell EP Ireland, demanded that Neil Rooney of OSSL should give a false statement to a Garda Ombudsman inquiry into a violent incident that took place at Pollathomais in County Mayo involving Garda Superintendent Joe Gannon, allegedly described by Nolan as being “Shell’s man”.
- During the Royal Dutch Shell Plc AGM held in May, Peter Voser, the Chief Executive of the oil giant publicly agreed to intervene with a view to resolving outstanding issues with OSSL. So Voser is now personally involved.
- The Garda has appointed Superintendent Thomas Murphy from the Swinford district of County Mayo to investigate the allegations made by OSSL.
- OSSL claim that in 2003 they engaged in a covert operation on behalf of Shell EP Ireland and discovered that the objective of the cover of darkness activity was to fool planning officials and avoid a potential delay of up to a year and considerable embarrassment for Shell. From what I have seen, the mission seems to have been executed like a comedy caper, but the intent was serious and apparently successful.
- OSSL owner Desmond Kane is so appalled by the continuing treacherous treatment his small company has received from Shell, including the failure of the Peter Voser intervention, that there are fears for his health.
“FACE OFF IN POLLATHOMAIS”
This was a particularly violent face off in Pollathomais between lawful protestors on the one side and Shell and its agents, including the Garda led by Superintendent Joe Gannon on the other. As can be seen in a YouTube video, a digger machine used by Shell became the focus of the fracas. It was in regard to this ugly confrontation that Shell EP Ireland CEO Terry Nolan demanded that Neil Rooney, who witnessed events, must falsify his evidence given to the investigation carried out by the Garda Ombudsman. Nolan informed Rooney that his statement had to be changed because the policeman involved in the incident was going to be hung out to dry and he was, as Nolan allegedly put it“our man” and “had to protected at all costs”.
After Rooney consulted with his OSSL colleague, Desmond Kane, over the demand to submit a new statement, he understandably declined to do so. Shell’s whole attitude to OSSL then changed dramatically for the worse. Neil Rooney says: “there is no doubt in my mind that that refusal to lie ‘on demand’ for the Shell CEO cost us our positions and livelihood and we are still paying a massive price.”
INTERVENTION BY PETER VOSER
I supplied OSSL with admittance cards to the May 2013 Royal Dutch Shell Plc AGM with a recommendation that they should raise their dispute with Shell EP Ireland directly with Peter Voser in the Q & A Session. This was after Mr Voser had chosen for several months to ignore emails from OSSL. Now he was publicly cornered into speaking on this potentially explosive subject and quickly agreed to a meeting with a view to resolution. He accepted a condition set by OSSL. Iain Middleton, Royal Dutch Shell Contracting and Procurement Leader for Europe subsequently confirmed in an email to OSSL that he had been asked by Peter Voser to meet with Desmond Kane and Neil Rooney of OSSL in Dublin. OSSL had insisted on someone representing Shell who had not been involved with Shell EP Ireland. The meeting came to nought because Shell wrongly calculated that it could still keep a lid on the scandal.
GARDA/SHELL INVESTIGATION OF THE ALLEGATIONS
The Garda says it has already carried out an internal investigation of OSSL allegations and found no evidence to support them. In other words the Garda investigated the Garda and the Garda conveniently cleared the Garda.
Shell has used precisely the same clever formula.
Shell says that it carried out an internal investigation and found no evidence to support the allegations. Shell investigated Shell and Shell conveniently cleared Shell.
This whitewashing process allows a scandal to be covered up. The end result is a sanitizing statement carefully and deliberately designed to deceive.
Both the Garda and Shell know that in fact the allegations are true.
Now Superintendent Thomas Murphy has approached OSSL saying that he is going to investigate. He has presented himself “as an independent person to the ongoing issues in Co Mayo” with clean hands. I can only guess that he did not receive a share of the free booze received from Shell by hundreds of his fellow County Mayo Garda police officers. With all due respect to Superintendent Murphy, he can hardly be described as “independent”.
However, if Superintendent Murphy decides to press ahead, the first person he should approach is Detective Chief Superintendent John Gilligan. He should ask Gilligan if he personally helped unload a delivery of alcohol at Bellmullet Garda station. (He did) If Gilligan declines to answer without first seeking advice from his lawyer, that alone would speak volumes. Superintendent Murphy may also wish to ask Gilligan and the other Garda who offloaded the free booze, who paid for it, who delivered it and who ended up drinking it?
There is a volume of correspondence between OSSL and Shell when the alcohol issue is discussed and no denial is made by Shell. A classic example is an email exchange that took place on 22 May 2012 between OSSL and the current CEO of Shell EP Ireland, Mr Michael Crothers. OSSL detailed a threat it had allegedly received from a party acting for Shell in relation to the supply of large amounts of alcohol to the Irish Police Force and related falsification of invoices. 22 minutes later OSSL received a reply from Mr Crothers. He did not take issue with or make any denial in respect of the statements about the threat to OSSL, the large amounts of alcohol showered on the Irish Police, nor on the related disguised invoices. Instead he dealt with another matter raised.
It is notable that in a letter dated May 28, 2013 Mr Crothers sent to a member of the Irish Parliament, Ms Clare Daly, Crothers claimed that Shell had arrived at a “full and final settlement” with OSSL in 2012. Clare Daly had written to Mr Crothers on my behalf. If a full and final settlement had been agreed, why did Peter Voser intervene? Why did the recent meeting between OSSL and Iain Middleton take place if all had already been resolved? Mr Crothers mentions in the same letter an invoice raised by OSSL for the alcohol requesting payment from Shell. If the invoice is fraudulent, why has this crime – an attempt to extort money from Shell on false pretenses – not been reported to the Garda?
In his letter Mr Crothers made plain his disdain for the tactics adopted by OSSL perhaps not expecting that OSSL would ever get to see what he had said about them:
Since last August OSSL has sent hundreds of emails, conducted public demonstrations, made statements on Facebook and has engaged with media in relation to its allegations. Emails demanding money have been directed to SEPIL staff and Royal Dutch Shell leaders. Emails have also been sent by OSSL to numerous journalists, with many senior Shell staff blind-copied on these mails. Local residents have also received emails.
Bearing in mind his repeated protestation in the letter that the OSSL allegations had been investigated and no evidence found to support them, Clare Daly was entitled to conclude that OSSL was engaged in a nasty campaign blackening the name of Shell for no good reason.
Why then did Shell decide at the very highest level to subsequently meet with OSSL again when OSSL had no grounds to pursue Shell, were making false accusations against Shell and doing so in an invidious way?
CONCERN FOR THE HEALTH OF DESMOND KANE
Mr Neil Rooney says that his OSSL colleague, Desmond Kane, has a longstanding heart condition and that the sheer frustration and trauma of being stone-walled and threatened by Shell and its agents is having a bad affect on his health. Information about his current condition has been conveyed to Shell which does not seem interested in the slightest.
Shell and its agents have warned Mr Kane and Mr Rooney of the prospect of imprisonment for their involvement in potential criminal activity in carrying out Shell’s instructions. The fact that both individuals have continued to reveal the truth is out of disgust and outrage at the way Shell pressured them into such activity in the first place and then ditched the company after they refused to give false testimony to the Garda Ombudsman investigation.
I have been in direct contact with Alan Shatter, the Irish Minister for Justice.
Given the gravity of these matters what is needed is a genuinely independent inquiry. Not another internal investigation of the Garda by the Garda.
SOME OF THE RECENT CORRESPONDENCE IS SHOWN BELOW.
CLICK TO ENLARGE ON EACH IMAGE.
EMAIL FROM MICHAEL CROTHERS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF SHELL EP IRELAND TO TD DEPUTY, CLARE DALY
EMAIL FROM IAIN MIDDLETON OF SHELL TO DESMOND KANE OF OSSL
EMAIL TO OSSL FROM SUPERINTENDENT THOMAS MURPHY OF THE GARDA
The Americans do not only spy on governments, authorities and private individuals across the world with the help of their secret services; they also understand how to push forward the global interests of their companies with full force. An impressive example of this is the agriculture giant Monsanto, the leading manufacturer of genetically modified seeds in the world.
A glimpse into the world of Monsanto shows that companies which delivered the pesticide ‘Agent Orange’ to the US military in the Vietnam war had close connections with the central power in Washington, with tough people from the field of the US secret services and with private insurance companies.
“Imagine the internet as a weapon”
In the global fight against genetic engineering, the US group draws on dubious methods, strange helpers – and the power of Washington. Critics of the group feel they are being spied upon.
The US group Monsanto is a giant in the agriculture business: and number one in the controversial field of plant genetic engineering. For its opponents, many of whom live in Europe, Monsanto is a sinister enemy. Time and again mysterious things happen, which make the enemy seem yet more sinister.
In the previous month, the European environmental organisation ‘Friends of the Earth’ and the German Environmental and Nature Protection Association (BUND) wanted to present a study on the pesticide glyphosate in the human body. Weed killers containing glyphosate are the big seller for Monsanto. The company aims for more than two billion dollars turnover for the Roundup product alone. ‘Roundup herbicide’ has a “long history of safe use in more than 100 countries”, Monsanto emphasises.
As viruses attack their computers, the eco-activists ask themselves: “could we be seeing ghosts?”
However, there are studies which show that the product may damage plants and animals and the latest study shows that many large city inhabitants now have the field poison in their bodies, without knowing it. Exactly what the spray can trigger in an organism is, as with so many things in this field, disputed.
Two days before the study across 18 countries was set to be published, a virus disabled the computer of the main organiser, Adrian Bepp. There was a threat that press conferences in Vienna, Brussels and Berlin would be cancelled. “We panicked”, remembers Heike Moldenhauer from BUND. The environmental activists were under extreme time pressure.
Moldenhauer and her colleagues have widely speculated about the motives and identity of the mysterious attacker. The genetic engineering expert at BUND believes the unknown virus suppliers wanted in particular to “generate confusion”. Nothing is worse for a study than a cancelled press conference: “we did ask ourselves at the time if we were seeing ghosts”, said Moldenhauer.
There is no evidence that Monsanto was the ghost or had anything to do with the virus. The company does not do things like that. It takes pride in operating “responsibly”: “Today, it is very easy to make and spread all kinds of allegations,” Monsanto claims. They say that “over and over there are also dubious and popular allegations spread, which disparage our work and products and are in no way based on science.”
Critics of the group see things differently. This is due to the wide network Monsanto has developed across the world. There are ties with the US secret services, the US military, with very hard operating private security companies and of course, with the US government.
A conspicuously large number of Monsanto critics report regular attacks by professional hackers. The secret services and military also like to employ hackers and programmers. These specialise in developing Trojans and viruses in order to penetrate foreign computer networks. Whistle-blower Edward Snowden has indicated the connection between intelligence services actions and economic drive. However, this sinister connection has been overshadowed by other monstrosities.
Some powerful Monsanto supporters know a lot about how to carry out a cyber war. “Imagine the internet as a weapon, sitting on the table. Either you use it or your opponent does, but somebody’s going to get killed” said Jay Byrne, the former head of public relations at Monsanto, back in 2001.
Companies regularly fight with dubious methods to uphold what they see as their right: but friend or foe, him or me – that is fighting talk and in a war, you need allies. Preferably professionals. Such as those from the secret service milieu, for example.
Monsanto contacts are known to the notorious former secret service agent Joseph Cofer Black, who helped formulate the law of the jungle in the fight against terrorists and other enemies. He is a specialist on dirty work, a total hardliner. He worked for the CIA for almost three decades, among other things as the head of anti-terroism. He later became vice president of the private security company Blackwater, which sent tens of thousands of soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan under US government orders.
Investigations show how closely connected the management and the central government in Washington are, as well as with diplomatic representatives of the USA across the world. In many instances, Monsanto has operationally powerful assistants. Former Monsanto employees occupy high offices in the USA in government authorities and ministries, industrial associations and in universities; sometimes in almost symbiotic relationships. According to information from the American Anti-Lobby-Organisation, Open Secrets Org, in the past year, 16 Monsanto lobbyists have taken up sometimes high ranking posts in the US administration and even in regulatory authorities.
For the company, it is all about new markets and feeding a rapidly growing world population. Genetic engineering and patents on plants play a big role here. Over 90 % of corn and soya in the USA is genetically modified. In some parts of the rest of the world the percentage is also growing constantly.
Only the European markets are at a standstill. Several EU countries have many reservations about the Monsanto future, which clearly displeases the US government administration. In 2009, the German CSU politician, Ilse Aigner, Federal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, also banned the corn type MON810 from German fields. When she travelled to the USA shortly afterwards, she was approached by her US colleague, Tom Vilsack about Monsanto. The democrat was once governor in the agricultural state of Iowa and distinguished himself early on as a supporter of genetic engineering. The genetic engineering industry elected him as ‘governor of the year’ in 2001.
Unfortunately, there is no recording of the discussion between Vislack and Aigner. It was said to be controversial. A representative for the Federal Government described the tone: there were “huge efforts to force a change in direction of the German government regarding genetic policy.” The source preferred not to mention details the type of “huge efforts” and the attempt “to force” something. That is not appropriate between friends and partners.
Thanks to Snowden and Wikileaks, the world has a new idea of how these friends and partners operate where power and money are concerned. The whistle-blowing platform published embassy dispatches two years ago, which also included details about Monsanto and genetic engineering.
For example, in 2007, the former US ambassador in Paris, Craig Stapleton, suggested the US government should create a penalties list for EU states which wanted to forbid the cultivation of genetically engineered plants from American companies. The wording of the secret dispatch: “Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU.” Pain, retaliation: not exactly the language of diplomacy.
Monsanto led the fight to allow the famous genetically engineered corn plant MON810 in Europe with lots of lobbying – the group completely lost the fight. It was even beaten out of the prestigious French and German markets. An alliance of politicians, farmers and clergy rejected genetic engineering in the fields and the consumers do not want it on their plates. But the battle is not over. The USA is hoping that negotiations started this week for a free-trade agreement between the USA and the EU will also open the markets for genetic engineering.
Lobbying for your own company is a civic duty in the USA. Even the important of the 16 US intelligence services have always understood their work as being a support for American economic interests on the world markets. They spy on not only governments, authorities and citizens in other countries under the name of the fight against terror, they also support American economic interests, in their own special way.
A few examples?
Monsanto denies the accusations and emphasises that it operates “responsibly”
More than two decades ago, when Japan was not yet a major economic power, the study ‘Japan 2000’ appeared in the USA, created by the employees of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Japan, the study read, was planning a kind of world takeover with a ‘reckless trade policy’. The USA would be the losers, stated the study. The national security of the USA was at threat, it continued and the CIA gave the call to war.
America’s economy must be protected from the European’s “dirty tricks”, explained former head of the CIA James Woolsey. This, he maintained, is why the “continental European friends” were spied upon. A clean America.
The whistle-blower Snowden was once in Switzerland for the CIA and during this time, he reported on which tricks the company was said to have tried in order to win over a Swiss banker to spy on account data. The EU allowed the American services to take a close look at its citizens’ financial business. Allegedly, this was to dry up money sources for terror. The method and purpose are highly dubious.
In Switzerland, the scene of many earlier espionage novels now plays one of these episodes that make Monsanto especially mysterious and enigmatic: In January 2008, the former CIA agent Cofer Black travelled to Zurich and met Kevin Wilson, at the time Monsanto’s safety officer for global issues. About what did the two men talk? Probably the usual: Opponents, business, mortal enemies.
The investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, who wrote the reference work about Blackwater, the company specializing in mercenaries, wrote in the American weekly The Nation in 2010 about the reported strange meeting in Zurich. He had received leaked documents once again. These show: Monsanto wanted to put up a fight. Against activists who destroyed the fields. Against critics, who influenced the mood against the genetic modification company. Cofer Black is the right man for all seasons: “We’ll take off the kid gloves”, he declared after the 11 September terrorist attacks, and tasked his CIA agents in Afghanistan to take out Osama bin Laden: “Get him, I want his head in a box.” However, he also understands a lot about the other secret service business, which operates with publicly available sources. When he meets with the Monsanto safety officer Wilson, Cofer Black is still the Vice (President) at Blackwater, who has the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA and, of course private companies as customers. However, there was a lot of anxiety in January 2008, because the mercenaries of the security company had shot 17 civilians in Iraq and some Blackwater employees had drawn attention by bribing Iraqi government employees. It just so happened that Cofer Black was at the same time head of the security company Total Intelligence Solutions (TIS), which was a subsidiary of Blackwater, not saddled with the same devastating reputation, however staffed with some excellent and versatile experts.
According to their own statements, Monsanto was conducting business with TIS at the time and not with Blackwater. It is without doubt that Monsanto received reports from TIS about the activities of critics. The activities in question were those that would have presented a risk for the company, its employees or its operating business. The information collected ranged from terrorist attacks in Asia to the scanning of websites and blogs. Monsanto emphasizes that TIS only used publicly accessible material when preventing said risk.
This matched Black’s modus operandus. No shady dealings.
There used to be rumors that Monsanto wanted to take over TIS to mitigate their risk – and there are new rumors these days that the group allegedly is considering a takeover of the company Academi that emerged after a few transformations from the former Blackwater Company. Is anything correct about these rumors? “As a rule we are not disclosing details about our relations with service providers, unless that information is already available to the public,” is the only commentary from Monsanto.
Every company has its own history, and the history of Monsanto includes a substance, which the turned the company into a demon not only not only for the aging 1968ers: Monsanto was one of the leading manufacturers of the pesticide Agent Orange, which was used until January 1971 by the US military in the Vietnam War. Forests were defoliated by constant chemical bombardment to make the enemy visible. Arable land was poisoned, so that the Vietcong had nothing to eat. In the sprayed areas, the teratogenic effects increased more than ten times. Children were born without noses, without eyes, with hydrocephalus, with facial clefts and the US military stated that the Monsanto agent was as harmless as aspirin.
Is everything allowed in war? Especially in the new fangled cyber war?
It is already obvious that somebody makes life difficult for Monsanto critics and an invisible hand ends careers. However, who is this somebody? The targets of these attacks are scientists, such as the Australian Judy Carman. Among other things, she has made a name for herself with studies of genetically modified plants. Her publications were questioned by the same professors which also attacked the the studies of other Monsanto critics.
It does not stop at skirmishes in the scientific community. Hackers regularly target various web pages where Carman publishes her studies and the sites are also systematically observed, at least that is the impression Carman has. Evaluations of IP log files show that not only Monsanto visits the pages regularly, but also various organizations of the U.S. government, including the military. These include the Navy Network Information Center, the Federal Aviation Administration and the United States Army Intelligence Center, an institution of the US Army, which trains soldiers with information gathering. Monsanto’s interest in the studies is understandable, even for Carman. “But I do not understand why the U.S. government and the military are having me observed,” she says.
The organization GM Watch, known to be critical of gene technology, also experiences strange events. Editor Claire Robinson reports continued hacker attacks on the homepage since 2007. “Every time we increase the page security just a bit, the opposite side increases their tenacity and following are new, worse attacks”, she says. She also cannot believe the coincidences that occur. When the French scientist Gilles Eric Seralini published a controversial study on the health risks of genetically modified maize and glyphosate in 2012, the web site of GM Watch was hacked and blocked. The same repeats when the opinion of the European food inspectorate (EFSA) is added to the site. The timing was skilfully selected in both cases. The attacks took place exactly when the editors wanted to publish their opinion.
It has not yet been determined who is behind the attacks.
Monsanto itself, as stated, emphasizes that the company operates “responsibly”.
The fact is, however, that much is at stake for the group. It is about an upcoming bill. Especially about the current negotiations on the free trade agreement. Particularly sensitive is the subject of the agricultural and food industry. The Americans want to open the European markets for previously prohibited products. In addition to genetically engineered plants controversial feed additives and hormone-treated beef are subject of the negotiations. The negotiations will probably extend over several years.
The Americans want to use the Free Trade Agreement to open the European GMO Market.
The negotiations will be detailed. Toughness will rule the day. US President Barack Obama has therefore appointed Islam Siddiqui as chief negotiator for agriculture. He has worked for many years for the US ministry of agriculture as an expert. However, hardly anyone in Europe knows: From 2001 to 2008, he represented CropLife America as a registered lobbyist. CropLife America is an important industry association in the United States, representing the interests of pesticide and gene technology manufacturers – including of course Monsanto. “Actually, the EU cannot accept such a chief negotiator because of bias”, says Manfred Hausling, who represents the Green Party in the EU parliament.
Translated by New Europe Translations for Sustainable Pulse (Original in German)