Clean | Green | Sustainable

Posts Tagged ‘Energy’

Hundreds arrested in sustained White House tar sands pipeline protests

Posted by Matthew Koehler on September 1, 2011

David Dougherty with The Real News takes a very good in-depth look at the continuing White House protests and the environmental and social issues surrounding the Alberta Tar Sands and the Keystone XL pipeline. Protesters are demanding that President Obama use his veto power to halt proposed expansion of Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada, through Montana and the Great Plains, and then down to refineries in Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.

Also, I just ran across this new report (download pdf) from Oil Change International called Exporting Energy Security: Keystone XL Exposed.


Posted in Climate Change, Economy, Energy, Green jobs, Obama Administration, Unsustainable | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hillary Clinton’s State Department Oil Services and Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

Posted by Matthew Koehler on September 1, 2011

Produced by Mark Fiore, this short animation is a not-so-far-fetched parody of Hillary Clinton’s State Department Oil Services and the influence of oil industry lobbyists on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline permit decision. For more information, visit

Posted in Climate Change, Energy, Forests, Obama Administration, Unsustainable | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why We Fight: Paul Edwards discusses his tar sands, megaloads video

Posted by Matthew Koehler on August 25, 2011

(Note: This article was written by Paul Edwards. It originally appeared in the summer 2011 newsletter of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. Paul’s new tar sands/megaloads video can be viewed here. – MK)

If John Muir were alive today he’d be a member of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. Muir was no armchair environmentalist, he was a radical activist committed to demonstrable results on the land, not to collaboration and consensus. He maintained that the whole natural world was vitally connected and you couldn’t damage one essential element of it without damaging it all in ways unknown and unforeseen. He’d be with us.

So would Aldo Leopold. Leopold’s passionate connection to the wild world led him, through years of immersion in it and deep, discerning introspection, to the formulation of his watershed Land Ethic: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.” That’s the mantra we live by in this organization.

The Alliance is often accused by nature rapists, ecosystem despoilers, and their phony sob sisters of being an uncompromising “obstructionist” organization. What drives them nuts is that we relentlessly attack and beat proposals that are flagrantly criminal — and so much of what is being done or attempted now in various ways by the Corporate Tyranny that owns America is simply criminal.

One good example is the Alberta Tar Sands obscenity. This incalculably destructive eco-crime has the full backing of both the Canadian and American governments, but organized opposition to it is growing every day.

Meanwhile, Exxon–a major Tar Sands player and extortionist pirate–has cut a deal with Montana’s Coalboy Governor and his Idaho counterpart, Oily Butch Otter, to run monstrous megaloads from the port of Lewistown on narrow Highway 12 along the federally-designated Wild and Scenic Clearwater and Lochsa Rivers. From there the route twists over serpentine Lolo Pass, goes down through Missoula and follows the Blackfoot River to the Rocky Mountain Front then up to the Alberta Tar Sands.

There are administrative challenges and lawsuits under way against the scam in both Idaho and Montana, but there’s no telling how they’ll play out. So, knowing I had a shot at a known enemy, I decided to try to hit Exxon where they live by doing a video to expose them in all their appalling arrogance.

The fight against the massive and continuing destruction of the Tar Sands is as David and Goliath as it gets. But as John Muir would have said, it is directly related and “connected” to the essential mission of the Alliance: We fight the arrogant and irresponsible exercise of concentrated money and power that exploits and abuses the natural world and the people who inhabit it.

Vital ecosystem connections are the essence of the Tar Sands fight and are part and parcel of what the Alliance has been doing with issues like the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act for decades. We fight the tough fights against very long odds…and we win most of the time.

For exactly that reason, members Muir and Leopold would be proud of us.

Paul Edwards was born in South Dakota and has worked as a pea-pitcher, header puncher, roustabout, wild animal trainer’s assistant, high-steel man, able seaman, movie actor and NGO rep in I Corps, Vietnam. Paul also put in 25 years as a writer, director and producer in Hollywood film and television (including the hit TV series Gunsmoke) before fleeing for his life and what remained of his sanity to his ranch on the Rocky Mountain Front at the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Posted in Climate Change, Coal, Energy | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Updates from White House sit-in to stop Tar Sands Keystone XL Pipeline

Posted by Matthew Koehler on August 22, 2011

A few weeks ago environmental leaders – including Maude Barlow, Wendell Berry, Tom Goldtooth, James Hansen, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben and David Suzuki – called for civil disobedience at the White House to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline from Canada’s tar sands, through Montana and the Great Plains, and then down to refineries in Texas.

According to Tar Sands Action:

Another 52 Americans were arrested at the White House this morning (August 22, 2011) for taking part in an ongoing sit-in to push President Obama to stand up to Big Oil and deny the permit for a massive new oil pipeline. In total, 162 people have been arrested since the ongoing protest began on Saturday.

This morning’s demonstrators came to Washington, DC from across the country, willing to spend their vacation in handcuffs to send a message to the President that they feel has abandoned their values and his promises to take on climate change.

Lori Fischer, the co-director for Nebraska Environmental Action Coalition and a member of Nebraska Farmers Union, traveled with five other Nebraskans and was arrested this morning. She said before her arrest:

“If the government is going to refuse to step up to the responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and many others. This is a crucial issue for Nebraskans to speak up loudly about. Our land, water, and the future of our children are at stake. I feel our leaders need to take seriously their responsibility to pass on a healthy and just world to the next generation, I am going to Washington remind them.”

Make sure to check out Tar Sands Action’s webpage for lots more general information and video, photos and updates on the continuing protest at the White House.

Another good source of information is the DC Indy Media site. Worth a look is a video Climate Wars, Episode 1:The Tar Sands. The site also links to Anonymous – Operation Green Rights – Tarmageddon Phase Two.

Posted in Climate Change, Coal, Energy, Obama Administration | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher goes to trial

Posted by Matthew Koehler on February 27, 2011

(What follows is a slightly abridged version of an article by Umbra Fisk, which appeared on Grist on Feb 22, 2011)

The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be … The nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.—Martin Luther King, Jr.

I want to share a story of an ordinary citizen using peaceful direct action to take a stand.

When Tim DeChristopher woke up one morning in December of 2008, what he was intending to do that day was disrupt a Bureau of Land Management oil and gas lease auction. He did not expect he was starting down a road that would leave him $1.7 million in debt, facing a court date and up to 10 years in jail. But Monday, Feb. 28, DeChristopher will go to trial for an unusual and profound act of creative, direct, nonviolent civil disobedience.

For DeChristopher, armchair activism wasn’t enough of a response to the climate crisis. So when he heard that parcels of land were going to be rushed off for lease in an auction at the end of the Bush administration, opening them up for drilling, DeChristopher wanted to do something to stop the sale.

As a busy graduate economics student at the University of Utah, DeChristopher hadn’t planned what he was going to do that day when he arrived directly after a class. The auctioneers asked if he would like to be a bidder. Thinking on his feet, he said, “Yes, I would.”

Handed bidder paddle number 70, DeChristopher began bidding as soon as the auction opened. He bought more than a dozen parcels and drove up the prices of others before being stopped by a federal agent. His “purchase” totaled 22,500 acres, and effectively put a halt to the 11th-hour leases and subsequent drilling.

The auction itself was later deemed illegitimate by the Obama administration because it was conducted outside of the rules set for holding such auctions. A law known as Secretarial Order 3226 went into effect in 2001, stating that all parts of the Department of the Interior, including the Bureau of Land Management, have to take into account the impacts of climate change in any major decision they make involving resource extraction.

Last year, climate luminaries Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, James Hansen, Robert Redford, and Terry Tempest Williams published an open letter to support DeChristopher.

They wrote that he “pulled off one of the most creative protests against our runaway energy policy in years: he bid for the oil and gas leases on several parcels of federal land even though he had no money to pay for them, thus upending the auction. The government calls that ‘violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act’ and thinks he should spend ten years in jail for the crime; we call it a noble act, a profound gesture made on behalf of all of us and of the future.”

If you’re interested in joining the march or trial activities, you can find information for how to do that here. Watch Solve Climate News for a series of seven interviews with Tim DeChristopher. Contribute to Tim’s legal defense at Bidder 70.

During the two years since the auction, DeChristopher’s trial has been rescheduled nine times. He is heading toward the Feb. 28 date with “joy and resolve,” committing to letting his position be known even in the face of significant jail time. “I have no illusions about prison being a nice place,” DeChristopher told me in an interview. “But I’ve been very scared about my future for a long time. Throughout this I’ve been a lot more scared about staying on the path that we’re on now than about going to prison for a couple of years,” said DeChristopher.

Posted in Climate Change, Energy, Obama Administration | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Black Liquor Scorecard: Pulp & Paper Companies Take $6.5 Billion from US Taxpayers in 2009

Posted by Matthew Koehler on March 17, 2010

Smurfit-Stone Container Corp took home $654 million from US Taxpayers, while their net income was only $8 million in 2009

Over the past year I’ve written a few articles (here and here) about the US pulp and paper industry figuring out how to use an unintended tax loophole in the 2005 highway bill to basically transfer billions in US taxpayer funds right into their own packets.

Last May, the Washington Post provided extensive coverage of the black liquor boondoggle in an article that opened up with: “The Obama administration wants to stop billions of dollars of tax credits and direct payments to the paper industry under a tax provision originally intended to promote alternative fuels for motor vehicles.” The same article included this statement from a US Treasury Department official, “Right now this does appear to be a transfer from the taxpayers to this industry.”

Talk about a “redistribution of wealth!” Where are the tea-baggers complaining about “socialism” when you need them, eh?

Sadly, for the most part, this multi-billion dollar transfer of taxpayer funds to the pulp and paper industry hasn’t gotten nearly the coverage it deserves by the mainstream press. That in itself is just really strange, especially since the US Government appears to be handing out taxpayer dollars like candy at Halloween and Americans of all political stripes are fed up and rightfully worried about our future.

Perhaps the mainstream newspapers in this country are a little gun shy about giving the pulp and paper industry a black eye.  For example, here in Missoula, Montana the local daily paper – the Missoulian – over the past year has completely failed (unless I missed it somewhere) to let their readers know that the Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation (while in bankruptcy and closing mills in Montana, Michigan and elsewhere) collected over half a billion dollars from US taxpayers in 2009. To make matters more interesting, Smurfit’s net income for 2009 was only $8 million.  Seriously, is this not a “newsworthy” item?

The fine folks at the Dead Tree Edition blog have put together more detailed information about the black liquor tax credit, which includes a detailed scorecard showing which pulp and paper corporations profitted the most on the backs of US taxpayers. That blog post is pasted below or available here. – mk

The $6.5 billion in controversial black-liquor credits earned in 2009 by 21 publicly traded pulp and paper companies was far more than their total profit for the year.

Despite the government’s unintended largesse, the 21 companies had combined net income of about $3 billion, according to an exclusive Dead Tree Edition analysis of documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Without the U.S. government subsidy, only nine of the companies would have been profitable in 2009, In fact, three recipients – Weyerhaeuser, NewPage, and Sappi – together lost $1.1 billion last year despite receiving nearly $800 million from the black-liquor program that expired on Dec. 31. AbitibiBowater, the one recipient that has not reported earnings for the 4th Quarter, almost certainly lost hundreds of millions as well.

At least one-fourth of the country’s capacity to make kraft pulp is in the hands of privately held companies that don’t have to file with the SEC. Assuming they took advantage of the “alternative fuel mixture” program in the same way that their publicly held peers did, the federal government probably shelled out between $8 and $9 billion to pay to do what they would have done anyway – use black liquor, a pulp byproduct, as a fuel source for their pulp operations.

Several of the public companies’ reports state that they expect to receive no subsidies for black liquor this year. And they’re right.

But don’t tell that to Congress or the news media. Obama Joins in on the Black Liquor Two-Step documented how sloppy reporting by leading news organizations had allowed Democratic Congress members to claim they were saving money by excluding black liquor from the new Cellulosic Biofuel Producer Credits (CBPC) — a program that black liquor couldn’t qualify for anyway.

In the 12 days since that was published, the black-liquor silliness in Washington has gotten even worse, with Republicans joining the shell game. Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) tried to play taxpayer hero this week by proposing to “pay” for a new jobs program by closing the non-existent CBPC loophole. But Democrats blocked that effort because they have already committed to using the bogus savings for healthcare reform.

Bunning’s effort to exclude black liquor from CBPC “is absolutely meritorious and should be adopted whatever else Congress does,” The Washington Post opined in a fact-challenged editorial. “This particular piece of corporate welfare showers paper companies with about $2.5 billion per year . . . that encourages them to generate power with ‘black liquor,’ an ‘alternative fuel.'” Nope. Not a dime has been paid to pulp and paper companies under CBPC.

Here are the 21 publicly traded companies, listed according to the amount of credits they received. The first number is the amount of black-liquor credits reported, the second is 2009 net income:

International Paper: $2.06 billion in black liquor credits; $2.36 billion net income
Smurfit-Stone Container: $654 million; $8 million
Domtar: $498 million; $310 million
MeadWestvaco: $375 million; $225 million
Weyerhaeuser: $344 million; $ – 545 million
NewPage: $304 million; $ – 308 million
AbitibiBowater: $284 million (estimated); $ – 801 million through 3rd Quarter
Verso Paper: $239 million; $106 million
Temple-Inland: $218 million; $206 million
Boise: $208 million; $154 million
Rayonier: $205 million; $313 million
Kapstone Paper and Packaging: $178 million; $80 million
Packaging Corporation of America: $176 million; $266 million
Clearwater Paper: $171 million; $182 million
Graphic Packaging: $147 million; $56 million
SAPPI: $136 million; $ -251 million
Buckeye Technologies: $130 million; $154 million
P.H. Glatfelter: $108 million; $123 million
Rock-Tenn: $75 million; $279 million
Appleton Papers: $18 million; $25 million
Wausau: $14 million; $21 million

Posted in Climate Change, Energy, Forests, logging, timber industry | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

President Obama sets sustainability goals for federal agencies

Posted by Matthew Koehler on October 7, 2009

From the White House:

WASHINGTON, DC – Demonstrating a commitment to lead by example, President Obama signed an Executive Order today that sets sustainability goals for Federal agencies and focuses on making improvements in their environmental, energy and economic performance. The Executive Order requires Federal agencies to set a 2020 greenhouse gas emissions reduction target within 90 days; increase energy efficiency; reduce fleet petroleum consumption; conserve water; reduce waste; support sustainable communities; and leverage Federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies.

“As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the Federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible products and technologies,” said President Obama.

The Federal government occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles, employs more than 1.8 million civilians, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services.

The Executive Order also requires federal agencies to meet a number of energy, water, and waste reduction targets, including:

  • 30% reduction in vehicle fleet petroleum use by 2020;
  • 26% improvement in water efficiency by 2020;
  • 50% recycling and waste diversion by 2015;
  • 95% of all applicable contracts will meet sustainability requirements;
  • Implementation of the 2030 net-zero-energy building requirement;

Click here to read the entire executive order.

This is a good step in the right direction and, quite frankly, it’s about time. I have a previous post up about something similar, which I called the “sustainability filter.”

Posted in Climate Change, Energy, Obama Administration, Sustainable Solutions | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pulp & Paper Industry’s Boondoggle Could Cost Taxpayers $10 Billion

Posted by Matthew Koehler on June 2, 2009

The US pulp and paper industry has figured out how to use an unintended tax loophole in the 2005 highway bill to basically transfer up to $10 billion in taxpayer funds right into their own packets.  Essentially every man, woman and child in the US is being forced to give $30 to the industrial dinosaurs in the pulp and paper industry.  If that doesn’t get your blood boiling, throw in the fact that this money is to compensate the pulp and paper industry for burning an additional 20 billion gallons of diesel!

For a look at how this issue is playing out in Montana, check out the Missoula Independent’s coverage.
You can also learn more by reading this letter that was sent to Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, by 25 environmental groups working to make the pulp and paper industry more sustainable and responsible.

Even more information can be found in this recent Wall Street Journal article, which opens with: “The Obama administration wants to stop billions of dollars of tax credits and direct payments to the paper industry under a tax provision originally intended to promote alternative fuels for motor vehicles.” Make sure to see a statement from a  US Treasury official quoted in the article who said, “Right now this does appear to be a transfer from the taxpayers to this industry.”  Talk about a “redistribution of wealth!”

Finally, no matter where you live in the US, please contact Senator Max Baucus (the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee) and ask him to end this tax loophole as soon as possible.  In April, Senator Baucus actually spoke out strongly against this boondoggle saying, “Unless we plug this loophole, the federal government is liable for billions in credits for black liquor in 2009 alone, even though the credit was never intended for this fuel…We are working to undo that unintended consequence.”  However, since that time, the Pulp and Paper lobbyists have been breathing down Baucus’ neck using the same tired, old rhetoric of the past.

Posted in Climate Change, Forests, logging, Obama Administration, timber industry | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Democracy Now! on the Struggle Against Mountaintop Removal

Posted by Matthew Koehler on April 9, 2009

We’re highlighted mountaintop removal coal mining – one of the greatest environmental and human rights tragedies in America – taking place in the mountains of Appalachia before.  Families and entire communities (some of which were founded before the American Revolution) are being driven off their land by flooding, landslides and blasting from mountaintop removal coal mining operations. I’d encourage anyone who cares about the environment and justice to take action by visiting the links above or one of the fine non-profit organizations in the list to the right that are working tirelessly day and night to end this tragedy.

Never one to shy away from a good fight – especially when the earth or social justice are at stake – my buddy Mike Roselle has put his neck (and entire large frame) on the line to stop the destruction of entire mountain ranges in West Virginia, the most biologically diverse region in the country.  Roselle’s considerable efforts have recently landed him in jail and spurred more death threats than people could imagine, something this co-founder of Earth First!, Rainforest Action Network and The Rukus Society takes in stride.

Yesterday, Amy Goodman interviewed Roselle on her Democracy Now radio/TV show. Please give the excellent interview a listen and get angry and inspired enough to take some steps to ensure justice for the people, mountains and critters of Appalachia.

Posted in Climate Change, Coal, Energy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Montana Gets a Little FLAT

Posted by Matthew Koehler on April 6, 2009

Fresh off the Homegrown Prosperity Renewable Energy Tour, University of Montana graduate student – and all around great guy – Derek Kanwischer has put his considerable skills, creativity and passion for sustainable living to use with his latest project, dubbed the UM FLAT (Forum for Living with Appropriate Technology).

Billed as the “physical home for sustainability at the University of Montana,” the UM FLAT (a retro-fit of an existing home) is an experiential live-in resource for a half-dozen UM students  demonstrating the practicality of sustainable living. Kanwischer’s idea is that by living with and educating others about the social, ethical, and environmental benefits of appropriate technology, the UM FLAT will help to promote a culture of sustainability at the University.

According to Kanwischer, “Development and construction of the FLAT will provide a tremendous opportunity for interested students, faculty, and local businesses to become involved.  The process of planning, construction, and operations for the UM FLAT should be viewed as opportunities to challenge students to develop workable solutions that can be applied to life outside of the classroom.”

Once the renovation of the house is complete, Kanwischer expects the FLAT will provide a wealth of experiential opportunities for everyone involved.

“The rewarding benefits include residential demonstration of sustainable living practices, opportunities for faculty using the UM FLAT as a teaching resource, a student and faculty research forum for projects related to sustainable living, and workshops to involve the expertise and participation of the Missoula community.”

Students wishing to live in the UM FLAT must apply to the University where their applications will be reviewed by the current co-directors and board of the UM FLAT to determine who will make the most dynamic contribution to the mission and objectives of the FLAT.

Phase one of the project includes working with local contractors and student groups to come up with a suitable design for renovating our garage space into a usable demonstration and community space. This spring, the COT Carpentry Program will take the lead on this renovation, adding value to UM properties, and offering opportunities for students to work on and study a green retrofit.

Kanwischer is grateful for the opportunity to work with a small budget provided by the University and he’s relying on the generous contributions of local businesses for discount materials and consulting work.  If you want more information about the UM FLAT, or to donate time, energy or resources, please contact Derek Kanwischer at

Posted in Energy, Green jobs, Sustainable Solutions | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »