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Stacy Feldman's articles

Latest Pair of Oil Accidents Fuel Opposition to Keystone Pipeline Extension

The BP crisis first provoked a closer look at Keystone XL a year ago as environmental security became a national concern

By Stacy Feldman, SolveClimate News

May 12, 2011
Rainbow Pipeline Spill

With reporting by Elizabeth McGowan

With the oil industry under the national spotlight, environmental advocates are pointing to a pair of recent oil spills to bolster their campaign against a much-disputed Alberta-to-Texas tar sands pipeline that could win U.S. approval by the end of the year.

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Chevron Case Highlights Difficulty of Making Oil Companies Pay for Spills

The biggest oil spill cases show that lengthy and expensive litigation works in favor of oil companies

By Michael Keller and Stacy Feldman

Mar 20, 2011
Oil contamination in the Ecuadorean Amazon rainforest.

When an Ecuadorian judge ordered Chevron to pay plaintiffs $8.6 billion last month for damages from oil contamination in the Amazon jungle after 18 years in the courts, environmental and indigenous people's advocates were euphoric.

Some hoped the time had finally come for larger environmental judgments against oil majors, widely derided for not paying the full costs connected to their oil spills.

But their hopes are fading. International arbiters at the Hague, Netherlands and a U.S. District Court in New York have separately blocked enforcement of the verdict. On March 11, the Ecuador ruling. The appeals process could drag on for years, during which time no payment can flow.

The case is especially complex — it marks the first time a U.S. oil giant was held accountable in a foreign court for pollution overseas. But it raises a fundamental question about all court orders forcing energy companies to pay for spill cleanup and damages: Are they working?

The short answer is not as much, or as fast, as many would like.

A look at some of the biggest oil spills over the last three decades that led to litigation shows that most energy firms pay partial rewards but very few, if any, environmental damages; outcomes vary with no apparent rhyme or reason; and cases, which follow appeal after appeal, can take decades to litigate.

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Green Growth, South Korea's National Policy, Gaining Global Attention

A new economic paradigm is arising out of the ashes of the global financial crisis. Could it take hold?

By Stacy Feldman

Jan 26, 2011

When the global financial crisis rippled through economies around the world in 2008, experts warned that global warming would slide down on the list of the world's priorities. In part, they were right.

Trillions flowed to resuscitate teetering economies, which were based on fossil fuels. Money pledged to address climate change was never mobilized.

But something else happened at the same time: Many nations' fiscal-stimulus packages included billions to finance clean energy projects.

No nation was as bullish on the idea as South Korea. Asia's fourth-largest economy poured 80 percent of its $38 billion stimulus program into what it calls "green growth." Later, it committed 2 percent of its annual GDP over five years to the same national cause.

Now, both rich and poor nations are turning to Seoul for lessons in green-powered development, and the new economic approach that was born out of financial mayhem. 

Could it take hold?

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Report Questions Role of Shale Gas as Bridge to Low Carbon Future

The authors warn shale gas will be burned in addition to coal, not as a substitute, and block renewable energy development

By Stacy Feldman

Jan 19, 2011

Without a global carbon price, the expanding shale gas boom would exacerbate climate change and take money away from renewable energy projects, a new report said, calling for a worldwide pause until countries take steps necessary to lower the risks of the new wave of drilling.

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On the Frontlines of a Warming World, 925 Million Undernourished People

Because of global warming and trends in population, dramatic movements in the food economy are likely here to stay

By Stacy Feldman

Jan 18, 2011

The rapid surge in staple food prices in 2008 that sparked global riots and sent millions into poverty is back. Now, researchers say that because of global warming and trends in population, these dramatic price movements in the food economy are likely here to stay.

The influential , based in Washington, D.C.,  gave warning last week that if current trends continue, extraordinary weather events like last year's Russian heatwave that wiped out 40 percent of the nation's wheat crop will recur more frequently, with effects felt everywhere and especially in the world's poorest regions.

"The frontlines of this crisis are occupied by the world's 925 million undernourished people," the group said in its annual report.

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Is Biomass Clean or Dirty Energy? We Won't Know for 3 Years

Should turning tree parts into electricity qualify as renewable power or is the practice dirtier than burning coal?

By Stacy Feldman

Jan 13, 2011

The Obama administration put off for another three years a decision on whether to regulate planet-warming gases from biomass power. The surprise delay dealt a blow to green groups' hopes for pollution controls on wood-burning incinerators anytime soon, while industry breathed sighs of relief.

"It was a total shock," said Margaret Sheehan, a lawyer with the Cambridge, Mass.-based , who said that she believes Big Timber was behind the U.S. EPA's decision.

Dan Whiting, spokesperson for the (NAFO), an organization of private forest owners in 47 states, said he was "pleasantly surprised."

Still, the delay leaves wide open a question central to the industry's future: Should turning tree parts into electricity qualify as clean renewable power in the eyes of government regulators, or should biomass emissions be regarded as a source of greenhouse gas pollution?

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TransCanada Takes Oil Sands Heat In Stride

TransCanada's first big advertising program drums up support for planned Keystone XL oil sands pipeline

By Stacy Feldman

Jan 11, 2011
an oil pipeline in Alaska

Sailing smoothly toward approval just last spring, major new pipeline that would carry Alberta oil sands crude into the U.S. encountered unexpected delays. Storms of controversy generated by two oil industry disasters suddenly created heavy going.

One was BP's catastrophic Gulf oil well blowout. The other hit closer to home. , another Alberta-based energy firm, suffered a breach in an oil sands pipeline that gushed more than 800,000 gallons of crude into Michigan's Kalamazoo River system.

Environmental groups and legislators pointed to the high-profile accidents to question the wisdom of TransCanada's 1,959-mile planned Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport as many as 510,000 barrels of bitumen per day across six U.S. states and over a vital underground aquifer to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Big Bank Adopts Groundbreaking Oil Sands Lending Policy, but Will It Have Teeth?

A leading oil sands lender adopts policy language considered the gold standard for protecting rights of indigenous peoples, but is it just rhetoric?

By Stacy Feldman

Jan 6, 2011
mining equipment

The (RBC) — one of the world's biggest financiers of Canadian oil sands — has expanded its environmental policy to give more say to indigenous peoples when considering underwriting mining projects and pipelines blamed for polluting their lands.

The decision to consult First Nations on "high-impact" investments, such as Alberta's oil sands, was hailed by environmental and indigenous groups as a sign of how far financial institutions have come in acknowledging the risks of fossil fuel development to Native Americans — and to their own bottom lines.

"This is certainly one of the strongest commitments we have seen from a bank of RBC's size in terms of indigenous rights," said Brant Olson, campaign director for advocacy group (RAN). "The bank has made real progress."

The decision was disclosed by RBC on its website on December 22, in a from President and CEO Gordon M. Nixon.

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Cleantech Crystal Ball Sees Rash of IPOs, Energy Efficiency Focus

State regulations, especially renewable portfolio standards, will continue as the main drivers of cleantech growth in the U.S., experts say

By Stacy Feldman

Jan 5, 2011

Cleantech startups could give investors considerably more to cheer about in 2011, if market conditions do not deteriorate, according to industry analysts.

Startups involved in everything from energy efficiency to renewable power and algae-based biofuels are looking to launch initial public offerings in the coming months to raise funds for growth.

"I'm a big believer in a rash of IPOs assuming the equity markets stay open," Scott Smith, partner and head of cleantech at in the U.S., said in a telephone interview. "That's something I'm pretty optimistic about for what's going to happen in cleantech ... And there are a lot of companies preparing for spring IPOs."

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In 2010, Canada's Oil Became a Contentious American Energy Issue

The world's first major foray into unconventional oil starts to generate heated debates in the U.S., Canada and globally

By Stacy Feldman

Dec 28, 2010

This was the year the Canadian oil sands registered for the first time on the political and public radar in the U.S. beyond the circle of green activists in the know.

Congressional members from both parties, farmers and ranchers fought a proposed Alberta-to-Texas pipeline that would double U.S. consumption of the crude. Federal agencies met with First Nations who urged against depending on the "dirty oil." The prestigious U.S. Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published an on the toxic effects of the tarry sands.

Anti-oil sands groups campaigned with billboards to convince would-be tourists to "rethink" visiting Alberta. Hollywood mogul James Cameron used his star power to raise awareness of the industry's environmental costs.

"The U.S. has been somewhat of a breakthrough in terms of awareness in 2010," said Simon Dyer, policy director and former head of the oil sands program at the , a Canadian environmental think tank.

(Includes correction, 1/7/2011)

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