Year 4, Month 12, Day 3: Because I Said So, That’s Why.

Wanna know who they are? Here ya go:

WASHINGTON — Just 90 companies worldwide produced fuels that generated two-thirds of industrial greenhouse gas emissions from 1854 to 2010, according to a new study.

The 90 biggest producers of fuels driving climate change include investor-owned corporations, such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron, and state-owned oil companies, such as Saudi Aramco and Mexico’s Pemex.

The study attributes 914 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases to the fuels extracted by the companies, which is 63% of the total 1,450 billion metric tons of emissions estimated since the mid-19th century.

The study, published in the journal Climatic Change, also found that of the 914 billion metric tons, half was pumped into the atmosphere since 1986, a result of the rapid industrialization of the developing world. The journal focuses on the causes and implications of climactic change.

“This is the most complete picture we have of which institutions extracted coal, oil and natural gas and when,” said Richard Heede, the study’s author and head of the Climate Accountability Institute, a small research group in Snowmass, Colo.

“These are the companies and institutions that have created the products — used as intended — by billions of consumers that have led to persistently higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane,” Heede said.

Disgusting. November 22:

The folksinger and “hobo philosopher” Utah Phillips once remarked, “The Earth is not dying, it is being killed, and those who are killing it have names and addresses.” Indeed. And the new study just published in Climatic Change provides us for the first time with specifics about the corporate entities which have done the most damage to Earth’s environmental stability. Even a few moments’ analysis confirms that these same corporations routinely use their enormous financial power to exacerbate the paralysis of our political system in the face of the extraordinary threat posed by climate change.

Our economic system allows these firms to reap huge profits from the sales of fossil fuels, while providing them with no reason to act responsibly toward the long-term survival and prosperity of our species and our planet. In this post-Citizens-United world, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that these particular “corporate persons” are conscienceless sociopaths.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 3, Day 17: The Immortal Sociopaths Care Not For Your Puny Human Concerns

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on the how-fucked-up-is-that Environmental Impact statement on the Keystone XL that recently plopped out of the State Department:

The State Department’s recent conclusion that the Keystone XL pipeline “is unlikely to have a substantial impact” on the rate of Canada’s oil sands development was based on analysis provided by two consulting firms with ties to oil and pipeline companies that could benefit from the proposed project.

EnSys Energy has worked with Exxon Mobil, BP and Koch Industries, which own oil sands production facilities and refineries in the Midwest that process heavy Canadian crude oil.

Imperial Oil, one of Canada’s largest oil sands producers, is a subsidiary of Exxon.

ICF International works with pipeline and oil companies but doesn’t list specific clients on its website. It declined to comment on the Keystone, referring questions to the State Department.

EnSys President Martin Tallett said he couldn’t talk about the proposed pipeline, but he pointed out that in addition to working for the oil industry, his company works for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Department and the World Bank.

“We don’t do advocacy,” Tallett said. “Our goal is to tell it like it is, to tell the way we see it. … If we were the pet of government agencies or oil companies, the other side wouldn’t come to us.”

The State Department did not respond to questions about the 2,000-page environmental impact statement it released Friday.

And then we have this:

The State Department’s “don’t worry” environmental impact statement for the proposed Keystone XL tarsands pipeline, released late Friday afternoon, was written not by government officials but by a private company in the pay of the pipeline’s owner. The “sustainability consultancy” Environmental Resources Management (ERM) was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the statement, which is now an official government document. The statement estimates, and then dismisses, the pipeline’s massive carbon footprint and other environmental impacts, because, it asserts, the mining and burning of the tar sands is unstoppable.

Move along, move along. Nothin’ to see here. Sent March 7:

While the State Department’s statement on the exploitation of the Canadian tar sands is flawed, the real problem is that the document was produced in a fundamentally dishonest way. It turns out that TransCanada, the corporation behind the Keystone XL project, paid a private “consulting” firm called ERM (Environmental Resources Management) to write the findings, which claim that since the extraction of tar sands oil is inevitable, the environmental damage caused by the pipeline can simply be ignored. The statement also asserts that the giant pipeline will be safe from the effects of climate change — which, given the massive climate impact of the tar sands oil, is a breathtaking combination of folly, hypocrisy and hubris.

Fossil fuel companies already have a hugely disproportionate degree of influence on our government, but TransCanada’s self-insertion in the State Department’s analysis is grotesque even by these standards. While it’s lucky for them that corporate “persons” are incapable of embarrassment or shame, it’s not such a good deal for the rest of us.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 5, Day 22: You Are Unastonished. I Am Unsurprised.

Sigh. Whocoodanode?:

The largest-ever United Nations conference, a summit billed as a historic opportunity to build a greener future, appears to be going up in smoke.

U.S. President Barack Obama likely won’t be there, and the leaders of Britain and Germany have bowed out. The entire European Parliament delegation has canceled.

And with fewer than six weeks to go until the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, negotiations to produce a final statement have stalled amid squabbling. Logistical snags, too, threaten to derail the event.

Feel that? You’re getting fisted by the invisible hand. Sent May 13:

Even as global climate change brings ever more unpredictable and extreme weather, there’s still something we can count on with near-absolute certainty: as the news from scientists gets steadily worse, so too will the paralysis of our national and global political systems. While hasty geopolitical action is usually ill-advised (as many Iraqis would confirm), the climate crisis demands a far more robust response than platitudes. The United States government can barely even muster tepid affirmations, hamstrung as it is by obstructionist Republicans and their enablers in the mass media.

Cui bono? Any person or organization that stands to benefit from a civilizational disruption of this magnitude would have to be sociopathically focused on short-term returns rather than long-term continuity — oddly enough, an exact description of the corporate “persons” currently bankrolling climate-change denial and undermining any attempts to build an international response commensurate to the magnitude of the emergency.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 4, Day 11: I’ll Show Him That A Cadillac Is Not A Car To Scorn

A guy named Randy Salzman writes an op-ed in the New York Times that’s well worth a read. It’s titled “Invitation to a Dialogue: Our Addiction to Cars.” The final few grafs:

While oil worldwide costs the same, other nations put higher fees on gasoline and diesel consumption. Japan’s high gas taxes make its 127 million people a huge test market for energy efficiency, while our lower taxes cajoled Detroit into selling gas-guzzling S.U.V.’s.

Of course, decreasing driving in a culture famed for its “love affair with the automobile” is difficult. No one, yet everyone, is to blame for our national default position of key in the ignition to get anywhere, everywhere and — often — nowhere. Our politicians are not willing to tell us the most inconvenient of inconvenient truths.

If we’d use our cars smarter, we’d mitigate a host of problems and prevent our grandchildren from following our children in fighting wars in the Middle East.

To begin using our cars intelligently rather than habitually, we need a rational federal gasoline “user fee” rolled in slowly over a decade.

It’s time politicians led an adult conversation with America.

Couldn’t have said it better myself, though I tried, in this letter, sent April 4:

From the stories of the early pioneers and Horace Greeley’s “Go West, young man,” to Kerouac’s Beat generation tales, the freedom to get up and go wherever we please is a formative element of the American myth. But the individual liberation implied by the automobile is chimerical; our society rightly castigates those who would abdicate their responsibilities to family and community, and our collective responsibility for the past century’s profligate consumption of fossil fuels is not something from which we can simply drive away. There is no freeway that will let us avoid the environmental consequences of introducing so much extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Yes, contemporary America’s social infrastructure is utterly dependent on the automobile — but this cannot be an excuse for inaction. If we are to steer in the direction of planetary good citizenship, we must change our oil economy, and the myths that lend it credibility.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 1, Day 11: Sharks and Cockroaches, Sharks and Cockroaches, Sharks and Cockroaches.

Sigh. Another day, another mess o’ platitudes. Ted Kaufman (formerly D-DE) writes in the Louisiana Advertiser that:

We are beginning a new year, and the silence in Congress is still deafening. Will there ever be a debate about what should be done to deal with climate change?

Oh, you don’t “believe” in it? If you do not, please, suspend that belief system for just a few minutes and take a look at what the major scientific organizations in this country say.

» NASA. The startling timeline chart leads you directly into a summary of why the evidence for rapid climate change is compelling. There are extensive sections documenting sea level rise, global temperature rise, warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, declining arctic sea ice, glacial retreat, extreme events, and ocean acidification.


» Even the American Medical Association, says “scientific evidence shows that the world’s climate is changing and that the results have public health consequences.”

The debate we need now is not about whether climate change is a reality. I hope that, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, 2012 will be the year our leaders finally listen to the scientific community and begin to fashion solutions to protect our world.

All true, of course. But do you notice anything missing? I did.

Sent January 7:

While Ted Kaufman’s remarks on Congress’ failure to address climate change are accurate and timely, he fails to address one of the problem’s most significant components: the influence on American politics, governance, and media wielded by corporations whose short-term profits are threatened by any attempts to move our energy economy in the direction of long-term sustainability.

Even before the disastrous Citizens United decision awarding collective entities the free speech rights of individuals, multinational corporations’ power over what we as citizens can see, hear, and read has increased exponentially — thanks largely to the Reagan-era media deregulation. Combined with the grotesque power exercised by K-Street lobbyists, this has brought us government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. In this light, the senator’s role in the financial sector bailout lends a certain irony to his remarks on Congressional dysfunction in the face of a genuine existential threat.

Warren Senders

Year 3, Month 1, Day 2: And They DEFINITELY Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Get Married!

Looks like some underlings are gonna feel some heat:

U.S. prosecutors are preparing what would be the first criminal charges against BP PLC employees stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident, which killed 11 workers and caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, said people familiar with the matter.

Prosecutors are focused on several Houston-based engineers and at least one of their supervisors at the British oil company, though the breadth of the investigation isn’t known. The prosecutors assert the employees may have provided false information to regulators about the risks associated with the Gulf of Mexico well while its drilling was in progress, these people said.

As the bumper sticker says, I’ll believe corporations are people when I see Texas execute one. Sent December 29:

Now that the Citizens United decision has helped establish corporate personhood as part of America’s legal fabric, we should all be asking questions about what happens when corporations break the law. Given the conservative/libertarian mantra of “individual responsibility,” one would expect “persons” like British Petroleum to be held fully responsible for their misdeeds.

An individual who, through gross incompetence, destroyed vast swaths of ocean habitat, killed thousands upon thousands of living things, and wiped out local economies would be rightly treated as a criminal. The available evidence suggests that BP’s malfeasance extends all the way up the corporate ladder, with safety and environmental concerns systemically neglected in an all-consuming rush for greater profits.

What BP did to the Gulf of Mexico, the fossil fuel industry as a whole is doing to Earth’s atmosphere. It is time for these corporate “persons” to be indicted and tried for their criminally negligent behavior.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 11, Day 28: Gooooooood Morning!

Why am I not surprised? USA Today:

As prospects for a major global accord on climate change look dim, ensuring that negotiations continue may be the most a United Nations climate summit will achieve next week.

Beginning Monday in Durban, South Africa, the 12-day U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change picks up where last year’s meeting in Cancun left off.

What eluded negotiators then, and still does today, is a grand bargain in which 194 nations commit to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions that most scientists contend are contributing to a warmer climate.

“Almost everyone agrees that some kind of big deal is unlikely,” says international negotiations expert David Victor of the University of California-San Diego. Economically, he says, “these are dark times and we have made that choice already in past meetings.”

Sheesh. Sent November 24:

In theory, our democratic government is supposed to be ever-active on behalf of the people. But in practice, it looks like America’s political system defines “people” rather more narrowly. Perhaps in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision affirming the “personhood” of corporations, our representatives mistakenly concluded that since corporations are now “people”, ordinary citizens aren’t.

How else to interpret America’s inability to take significant action on the profound threat of climate change? When the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases are “unlikely” to come to any kind of meaningful accord at the upcoming Durban conference, there is only one interpretation: “corporate persons” believe themselves invulnerable to the runaway greenhouse effect scientists say is is now all but inevitable.

Maybe so. If climate change brings an “evolutionary bottleneck” for humanity, Earth may indeed eventually be ruled by mindless, consumption-driven corporate intelligences. Cockroaches, after all, are the ultimate survivors.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 27: Just Make It Stop. Please. Make It Stop.

Wherever Watertown, Wisconsin is, I just picked up a little squib noting that the SCOTUS is going to hear another climate-change related case:

As the EPA considers rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, Republicans in Congress lead an effort to strip the EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases. Arguments will be heard Tuesday, April 19, before the U.S. Supreme Court over the ability of states and groups such as the Audubon Society to sue large electric utilities and force power plants in 20 states to cut their emissions.

With regard to our current Court I am extremely pessimistic despite the presence of Kagan and Sotomayor.

Sent April 17:

The upcoming Supreme Court case addressing the rights of states and organizations to bring utility companies to court over issues of greenhouse gas pollution will pose a pretty conundrum for the court’s conservative majority. In conferring “personhood” on corporations, the Citizens United decision should make it easier for these actions to proceed — but the Court’s overwhelming bias towards the interests of the very wealthiest elements of our society may well make their upcoming decision an example of egregious hypocrisy. It is a grave misfortune that the ideological majority of America’s judicial branch is so firmly lodged in the pocket of giant, greedy, and irresponsible corporate entities. Corporate greed and scientific ignorance make a lethal combination, and it would be especially tragic if this combination of venality, stupidity, and cupidity served to hinder the work of states and environmental groups attempting to mitigate the potential damage from global climate change.

Warren Senders

Month 10, Day 28: How I Long For The Days Of “Enlightened Self-Interest”

The Washington Post runs an AP story on the corporate groups that are destroying our democracy:

Rove, who was President George W. Bush’s top political adviser, and the two Mayflower lunch partners – former GOP Chairman Ed Gillespie and Steven Law, a veteran of Capitol Hill and the Chamber of Commerce – worried that the Republican Party alone would be no match for President Barack Obama’s superb fundraising.

“Clearly there was a tremendous amount of grass-roots energy building – a grass-roots prairie fire that was building in intensity,” Law, now the Crossroads president, said in an interview. “We felt that one of the things we could do was pour gasoline on that.”

If voters seemed angry, so was corporate America. Obama led Congress into passing health care and financial regulation overhauls and pushed for climate legislation, all of which angered the business community.


The fact that corporate America was “angry” about President Obama’s calls for climate legislation reveals a lot about Corporate America (which deserves full capitalizations now that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has affirmed its personhood). Specifically, Corporate America is mistrustful of expertise, incapable of long-term thought, lacks any conception of the common good, and is irrationally prone to anger.

A response to proposed climate-change legislation that was not distorted by these tendencies would look very different. For example, it would recognize the overwhelming scientific consensus on the reality of global warming, and acknowledge that the catastrophic consequences of unchecked climate chaos would be (to put it mildly) bad for business. If our corporate citizens were motivated by the common good rather than their quarterly profits, we ordinary human citizens would have no reason to fear them and their devastating impact on both the political and planetary atmospheres.

Warren Senders

Month 5, Day 11: Righteous Anger!

I heard BP CEO Tony Hayward’s little interview on CNN. So I wrote him a letter. I’m going to email it to BP’s press office, mail it to BP’s home office, and send another copy into outer space: Hayward is described as living “near Sevenoaks, Kent, United Kingdom.” So I’m going to address an envelope just that way and send it. It’s too bad that the very rich and powerful (see Cheney, Richard) cannot be located by the people whose lives they influence.

Dear Mr. Hayward —

I was distressed to listen to your brief interview on CNN in which you brushed aside questions about British Petroleum’s willingness to assume greater liability for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Senator Ben Nelson, commenting on your appearance, said that he had no confidence that your corporation would waive the $75,000,000 limit of damage liability — that is to say, he had no confidence that British Petroleum would do the right thing.

Because, Mr Hayward, abdicating your corporate responsibility for a disaster you caused is the wrong thing to do. To be sure, such a selfish and irresponsible action will no doubt be viewed favorably by BP’s stockholders, whose losses will thereby be mitigated.

And that, sir, is why, more than politicians, corporations are feared and reviled by the great majority of the world’s population. Because a group of shareholders dispersed in multiple locations around the planet can influence corporate behavior in ways that will condemn entire communities and ecosystems to an oil-soaked oblivion. Because the profit imperative drives corporate behavior; because corporations don’t have to eat petroleum-poisoned fish; because corporations have no consciences; because while British Petroleum may pump oil from the Gulf of Mexico it does not mean that British Petroleum “feels” any responsibility for the damage it’s done — because corporations don’t feel anything.

And because you have elected to surrender your humanity to the profit motive and become the nominal leader of a corporation, it means that the image of an oil-soaked seabird gasping its last breath is not a grotesque and horrifying atrocity, but a Public Relations problem. The public must be distracted from the dead birds, from the poisoned fish, from the devastated ecosystems, from the crippled industries, from the blighted bays.

Let me tell you something, Mr Hayward. This time, the public won’t be distracted. British Petroleum created one of the greatest environmental catastrophes our planet has yet experienced. It is obvious in retrospect that your corporation was ill-prepared for any eventuality other than the optimal one; it is increasingly obvious that your corporation’s record of compliance with even the weakest safety and environmental regulations is abysmal. This is your disaster, and there are thousands of people throughout the world who will not rest until everyone knows that British Petroleum refused to pay to clean up the mess it created.

Perhaps I’m wrong, and your corporation will act decisively in the public interest. I hope so; demonstrating that BP takes its responsibilities seriously would give the citizens of the world an example of corporate good citizenship. But if I were a betting man, my money would be on “irresponsible, avaricious sociopathy.”

Are you going to prove me wrong?

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders