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A roundup of news, views and ideas from the main stream press and the blogosphere.  Click on the headline link to see the full article.

Trying to Put a Price on Big Oil’s ‘Climate Obstruction’ Efforts

Eric Roston, Bloomberg
ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch/Shell, and three oil-industry groups together spend $115 million a year on advocacy designed to “obstruct” climate change policy, according to new estimates released by Influence Map, a British nonprofit research organization.

The sheer fuzziness of corporate influence prompted the project. Nations hold companies to different standards—or none at all—for disclosures of how they are trying to influence public policy and what it costs.

To come up with its numbers, Influence Map first had to define what "influence" actually means. The researchers adopted a framework spelled out in a 2013 UN report written to help companies align their climate change policies with their lobbying and communications strategies. It’s a broad approach to understanding influence that includes not only direct lobbying, but also advertising, marketing, public relations, political contributions, regulatory contacts, and trade associations…

Oil industry must thwart ‘misguided’ divestment campaign, says Saudi minister

Alex Pashley, The Guardian
Big Oil must thwart the movement to leave fossil fuels in the ground, the world’s most powerful oilman said on Tuesday.

Addressing executives in Texas, Saudi oil minister Ali Al-Naimi said the industry had to shed its “Dark Side” image and show it was a “force for good”.

“As an industry, we should be celebrating that fact, and better explaining the vital importance of these precious natural resources,” he said, according to a transcript from an event in Houston…

Is A Permanent Decline Coming For Russia?

Nick Cunningham,
The OPEC meeting in Doha is less than two weeks away, and the markets are not sure what to make of it – oil prices have seesawed back and forth following every comment from OPEC and Russian officials about the possibility of a production freeze.

The summit originally generated a lot of buzz because Russia was finally convinced to come to the table with OPEC, raising the possibility that the two sides could cooperate on oil production limits. Since Russia and OPEC account for more than 40 percent of global oil production combined, their potential cooperation can move markets. They tentatively agreed to freeze their output levels, seemingly agreeing on collective sacrifice.

For Russia, however, there does not appear to be much of a downside to agreeing to production limits. That is because Russia is at post-Soviet record highs for oil production. Even though Russian output rose to 10.91 million barrels per day in March, 2016 could mark a permanent peak in output as its aging fields enter decline…

Drillers Can’t Replace Lost Output as $100 Oil Inheritance Spent

Rakteem Katakey, Bloomberg
For oil companies, the legacy of $100 crude is starting to run dry.

A wave of projects approved at the start of the decade, when oil traded near $100 a barrel, has bolstered output for many producers, keeping cash flowing even as prices plummeted. Now, that production boon is fading. In 2016, for the first time in years, drillers will add less oil from new fields than they lose to natural decline in old ones.

About 3 million barrels a day will come from new projects this year, compared with 3.3 million lost from established fields, according to Oslo-based Rystad Energy AS. By 2017, the decline will outstrip new output by 1.2 million barrels as investment cuts made during the oil rout start to take effect. That trend is expected to worsen…

Report: Beyond the Shale: Aboard the Price Rollercoaster

Carbon Tracker
The flaws in the business models of some of the largest US shale producers are becoming clear. Growing levels of debt are unsustainable, and there is a risk that investors could face a bumpy ride as sector equity finance surges in 2016.

Plunging hedging revenues, coupled with high net debt and falling output, have punished struggling US shale oil and gas companies, with stragglers more likely to default on debt under a longer period of low oil prices.

Despite the recent oil price collapse, the analysis shows that equity investors appear to be throwing caution to the wind, piling back into the sector with some $8.9 billion of equity issued already in the first quarter of this year – a more than 10-fold increase on the final three months of 2015, and the highest quarterly level since 2011 at least…

Soil Could Be The Key To Fighting Climate Change

Natasha Geiling, Think Progress
But what if something as simple as the dirt under your feet could help mitigate some of the worst of climate change? The Earth’s soils contain a lot of carbon, and helping to manage and restore them could be a key way to help tackle climate change, according to a recent study in Nature.

The study, published by a group of international scientists, suggests that using “soil-smart” techniques for soil management could sequester as much as four-fifths of the annual emissions released by the burning of fossils fuels. These techniques include planting crops with deep roots, which help keep soil intact and encourage the growth of microbial communities that help trap soil carbon, and using charcoal-based composts. The study also calls for a wider adoption of sustainable agriculture techniques — things like no-till farming, which involves growing crops from year to year without disturbing the soil and has been shown to potentially help soil retain carbon, and organic agriculture, which also has shown some promise in restoring and maintaining soil health…

Patrick Holden: ‘cheap’ food is costing the Earth, and our health

Emily Lewis-Brown, The Ecologist
Food has never been more affordable for middle class families in rich countries. But it comes at a high cost: the impact of industrial food production on health, environment and society has never been greater, as Patrick Holden explained to Emily Lewis-Brown. Now the real cost of food US production will be examined in a ground-breaking conference in San Francisco.

Next week’s The True Cost of American Food conference will bring together leading experts on the environmental, human health, and cultural impacts and costs of American food systems with a clear objective in mind: to fulfil the right of every citizen to affordable, healthy, sustainable food.

Conference: The True Cost of American Food conference will begin with a reception on Thursday 14th April, and will feature keynote addresses, local and artisan food, and a cultural program.

This will be followed by a full two days of plenary and two sets of 8 parallel sessions on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th April at the Fort Mason Center, San Francisco. The Sunday offers a variety of field trips to local food businesses and farms…

No Man’s Land

Steven Stoll, Orion Magazine
a chainlink fence topped with razor wire surrounds fourteen acres of thistle and grass at East Forty-First Street between Long Beach Avenue and South Alameda Street in Los Angeles. These two city blocks occupy a transitional environment of sorts. In one direction the sight of small houses stretches for miles toward the Pacific Ocean, but turn around and the neighborhood becomes industrial, consisting of a textile factory, a scrap metal recycling company, trucking terminals, and warehouses. The tracks of the Southern Pacific Railroad run parallel to Long Beach Avenue. There are few trees or anything green and growing but the drought-resistant thistle.

In 1986, the City of Los Angeles acquired the land from a group of owners through eminent domain, but then folded plans to build a waste incinerator when the community resisted. The land ended up in the holdings of the Harbor Department. It had been two years since the uprising that followed the acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers, tried for beating Rodney King. Perhaps looking to make a gesture and lacking its own use for the site, the Harbor Department invited members of a local food bank to plant a community garden.

They did. Between 1994 and 2006 hundreds of families grew a profusion of food plants on what had been a blighted lot just a few years before. One visitor identified a hundred species, most of them native to Mexico and South America— chayote, guava, tomatillo, sapodilla, and sugarcane, in addition to maize, beans, avocados, bananas, and squashes. The South Central Farm was not misnamed: photographs show the land in robust cultivation, producing a wealth of food…

Tesla Discontinues 10-Kilowatt-Hour Powerwall Home Battery

Julia Pyper, Greentechmedia
Tesla has quietly removed all references to its 10-kilowatt-hour residential battery from the Powerwall website, as well as the company’s press kit. The company’s smaller battery designed for daily cycling is all that remains.

The change was initially made without explanation, which prompted industry insiders to speculate. Today, a Tesla representative confirmed the 10-kilowatt-hour option has been discontinued.

"We have seen enormous interest in the Daily Powerwall worldwide," according to an emailed statement to GTM. "The Daily Powerwall supports daily use applications like solar self-consumption plus backup power applications, and can offer backup simply by modifying the way it is installed in a home. Due to the interest, we have decided to focus entirely on building and deploying the 7-kilowatt-hour Daily Powerwall at this time."…


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