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October, 2015:

Exxon Knew about Climate Change Almost 40 Years Ago

A new investigation shows the oil company understood the science before it became a public issue and spent millions to promote misinformation

The company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic.

Exxon was aware of climate change, as early as 1977, 11 years before it became a public issue, according to a recent investigation from InsideClimate News. This knowledge did not prevent the company (now ExxonMobil and the world’s largest oil and gas company) from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation—an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public.

Experts, however, aren’t terribly surprised. “It’s never been remotely plausible that they did not understand the science,” says Naomi Oreskes, a history of science professor at Harvard University. But as it turns out, Exxon didn’t just understand the science, the company actively engaged with it. In the 1970s and 1980s it employed top scientists to look into the issue and launched its own ambitious research program that empirically sampled carbon dioxide and built rigorous climate models. Exxon even spent more than $1 million on a tanker project that would tackle how much CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. It was one of the biggest scientific questions of the time, meaning that Exxon was truly conducting unprecedented research.

In their eight-month-long investigation, reporters at InsideClimate News interviewed former Exxon employees, scientists and federal officials and analyzed hundreds of pages of internal documents. They found that the company’s knowledge of climate change dates back to July 1977, when its senior scientist James Black delivered a sobering message on the topic. “In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s management committee. A year later he warned Exxon that doubling CO2 gases in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by two or three degrees—a number that is consistent with the scientific consensus today. He continued to warn that “present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.” In other words, Exxon needed to act.

But ExxonMobil disagrees that any of its early statements were so stark, let alone conclusive at all. “We didn’t reach those conclusions, nor did we try to bury it like they suggest,” ExxonMobil spokesperson Allan Jeffers tells Scientific American. “The thing that shocks me the most is that we’ve been saying this for years, that we have been involved in climate research. These guys go down and pull some documents that we made available publicly in the archives and portray them as some kind of bombshell whistle-blower exposé because of the loaded language and the selective use of materials.”

One thing is certain: in June 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen told a congressional hearing that the planet was already warming, Exxon remained publicly convinced that the science was still controversial. Furthermore, experts agree that Exxon became a leader in campaigns of confusion. By 1989 the company had helped create the Global Climate Coalition (disbanded in 2002) to question the scientific basis for concern about climate change. It also helped to prevent the U.S. from signing the international treaty on climate known as the Kyoto Protocol in 1998 to control greenhouse gases. Exxon’s tactic not only worked on the U.S. but also stopped other countries, such as China and India, from signing the treaty. At that point, “a lot of things unraveled,” Oreskes says.

But experts are still piecing together Exxon’s misconception puzzle. Last summer the Union of Concerned Scientists released a complementary investigation to the one by InsideClimate News, known as the Climate Deception Dossiers (pdf). “We included a memo of a coalition of fossil-fuel companies where they pledge basically to launch a big communications effort to sow doubt,” says union president Kenneth Kimmel. “There’s even a quote in it that says something like ‘Victory will be achieved when the average person is uncertain about climate science.’ So it’s pretty stark.”

Since then, Exxon has spent more than $30 million on think tanks that promote climate denial, according to Greenpeace. Although experts will never be able to quantify the damage Exxon’s misinformation has caused, “one thing for certain is we’ve lost a lot of ground,” Kimmell says. Half of the greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere were released after 1988. “I have to think if the fossil-fuel companies had been upfront about this and had been part of the solution instead of the problem, we would have made a lot of progress [today] instead of doubling our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Experts agree that the damage is huge, which is why they are likening Exxon’s deception to the lies spread by the tobacco industry. “I think there are a lot of parallels,” Kimmell says. Both sowed doubt about the science for their own means, and both worked with the same consultants to help develop a communications strategy. He notes, however, that the two diverge in the type of harm done. Tobacco companies threatened human health, but the oil companies threatened the planet’s health. “It’s a harm that is global in its reach,” Kimmel says.

To prove this, Bob Ward—who on behalf of the U.K.’s Royal Academy sent a letter to Exxon in 2006 claiming its science was “inaccurate and misleading”—thinks a thorough investigation is necessary. “Because frankly the episode with tobacco was probably the most disgraceful episode one could ever imagine,” Ward says. Kimmell agrees. These reasons “really highlight the responsibility that these companies have to come clean, acknowledge this, and work with everyone else to cut out emissions and pay for some of the cost we’re going to bear as soon as possible,” Kimmell says.

It doesn’t appear, however, that Kimmell will get his retribution. Jeffers claims the investigation’s finds are “just patently untrue, misleading, and we reject them completely”—words that match Ward’s claims against them nearly a decade ago.

Lawmakers Seek Probe of Oil Giant for Hiding Knowledge of Climate Change


ExxonMobil scientists continue to research and publish findings to improve understanding of climate system science as a basis for society’s response to climate change and have produced more than 50 peer-reviewed publications on topics including the global carbon cycle, detection and attribution of climate change, low carbon technologies and analysis of future scenarios for energy and climate.

“We are writing concerning a potential instance of corporate fraud-behavior that may ultimately qualify as a violation of federal law”, said Sanders’ letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch. The resulting report finds Exxon officials received information from their own top-notch researchers in July 1977 that a doubling of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere would raise global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius, and by up to 10 degrees Celcius at the Earth’s poles.

“Based on available public information, it appears that Exxon knew its product was causing harm to the public, and has spent millions of dollars to obfuscate the facts in the public discourse”, he said.

“Exxon Mobil knew the truth about fossil fuels and climate change and lied to protect their business model at the expense of the planet”, Sanders, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination, wrote. ExxonMobil scientists have been selected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations’ most authoritative body on the subject, as authors of their past four major assessment reports, and have contributed to National Research Council boards and committees on climate change. Their letter to the attorney general cited the ICN story and a separate investigation by the Los Angeles Times, which showed that Exxon studied how global warming could affect its Arctic operations. Exxon’s climate deception is now sparking calls for a federal probe similar to that which yielded a racketeering conviction of Big Tobacco for hiding the dangers of smoking. Bernie Sanders sent a letter to the Department of Justice urging it to investigate claims levied by liberal news outlets that the oil giant Exxon Mobil “covered up” evidence about man-made global warming.

“We held tobacco companies responsible for lying about cancer”.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Exxon’s Funding Of Climate Denial Turned Americans Against Their Own Government For Profit

Exxon and other fossil fuel companies may have committed a crime of enormous proportions, and more and more elected officials and others are demanding an investigation.

The charge is that Exxon scientists and management knew since the late 1970s that the company’s product was helping cause our planet to warm “catastrophically,” but management responded by covering this up and disseminating disinformation – joining with other companies to commit an enormous fraud on the public for profit.

For some time, environmentalists have been warning that oil and coal companies were behind a broad campaign to deceive the public and block the government from regulating or taxing carbon pollution. Sites like ExxonSecrets, the Union of Concerned Scientists, SourceWatch and their Coal Issues portal, CoalSwarm and many others have been exposing, warning, documenting and working to get the word out.

This campaign is said to have included strategic use of misinformation, propaganda disseminated through front groups disguised as ideological organizations and purchased political influence to turn a substantial portion of the public against their own government. This was so that the companies could continue to profit from selling a dangerous, destructive product.

Recent investigative reporting has been able to access internal Exxon documents and statements from company scientists that confirms what the environmentalists have been telling us.

Exxon Knew

In September Inside Climate News (ICN) broke a story they called “Exxon: The Road Not Taken.” Using internal Exxon documents, Climate News showed how “Exxon conducted cutting-edge climate research decades ago” that its executives suppressed as it went about “manufacturing doubt about the scientific consensus that its own scientists had confirmed.” The report begins:

At a meeting in Exxon Corporation’s headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.

According to the reporting, beginning in the late 1970s Exxon scientists repeatedly warned management that their product was contributing to warming the planet, and that this could be “catastrophic.” A senior Exxon scientist, for example, warned in 1977 that “Present thinking holds that man has a time window of five to ten years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”

That was in 1977. Exxon scientists continued sounding the alarm and at first the company responded responsibly by launching an ambitious carbon/climate research effort.

Within months the company launched its own extraordinary research into carbon dioxide from fossil fuels and its impact on the earth. Exxon’s ambitious program included both empirical CO2 sampling and rigorous climate modeling. It assembled a brain trust that would spend more than a decade deepening the company’s understanding of an environmental problem that posed an existential threat to the oil business.

The Los Angeles Times looked at that research effort, in “What Exxon knew about the Earth’s melting Arctic,” part of a year-long project “researching the gap between Exxon Mobil’s public position and its internal planning on the issue of climate change.” The Times’ investigation was extensive, with broad access to documents and experts:

As part of that effort, reporters reviewed hundreds of documents housed in archives in Calgary’s Glenbow Museum and at the University of Texas. They also reviewed scientific journals and interviewed dozens of experts, including former Exxon Mobil employees.” The LA Times report found that Exxon scientists – and management – understood clearly that carbon was contributing to climate change and that the effects were real and severe.

From the ICN report:

Exxon’s research laid the groundwork for a 1982 corporate primer on carbon dioxide and climate change prepared by its environmental affairs office. Marked “not to be distributed externally,” it contained information that “has been given wide circulation to Exxon management.” In it, the company recognized, despite the many lingering unknowns, that heading off global warming “would require major reductions in fossil fuel combustion.”

Unless that happened, “there are some potentially catastrophic events that must be considered,” the primer said, citing independent experts. “Once the effects are measurable, they might not be reversible.”

Exxon knew. The company was part of an industry that was profiting from a product that was polluting the planet with potentially “catastrophic” consequences that “endangered humanity.”

So what did Exxon do with that knowledge?

What Exxon Did

What did Exxon do after company scientists provided indisputable evidence of the risks their product posed to the planet and humanity? The ICN report continued:

Then, toward the end of the 1980s, Exxon curtailed its carbon dioxide research. In the decades that followed, Exxon worked instead at the forefront of climate denial. It put its muscle behind efforts to manufacture doubt about the reality of global warming its own scientists had once confirmed. It lobbied to block federal and international action to control greenhouse gas emissions. It helped to erect a vast edifice of misinformation that stands to this day.

Exxon hid its corporate lobbying effort using a network of front groups disguised as ideological organizations and “think tanks” to disseminate disinformation and anti-government propaganda. They worked to sow doubt about the science – including smearing scientists and environmental activists – and to delegitimize potential efforts by governments to regulate its product. They also funded politicians who would help block efforts to regulate them. The ICN report explains:

Exxon helped to found and lead the Global Climate Coalition, an alliance of some of the world’s largest companies seeking to halt government efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions. Exxon used the American Petroleum Institute, right-wing think tanks, campaign contributions and its own lobbying to push a narrative that climate science was too uncertain to necessitate cuts in fossil fuel emissions.

Exxon and other companies utilized a network of front groups to push what has come to be called “climate denial.” The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) looked at what they call Global Warming Skeptic Organizations and warned,

These organizations play a key role in the fossil fuel industry’s “disinformation playbook,” a strategy designed to confuse the public about global warming and delay action on climate change. Why? Because the fossil fuel industry wants to sell more coal, oil, and gas — even though the science clearly shows that the resulting carbon emissions threaten our planet.

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ “Climate Deception Dossiers” examine a “coordinated campaign of deception” that is “underwritten by ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, BP, Shell, Peabody Energy, and other members of the fossil fuel industry.” ExxonSecrets has mapped the networking of many of these organizations. And from 2007, New report from Union of Concerned Scientists documents ExxonMobil’s disinformation campaign:

Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to “Manufacture Uncertainty” on Climate Change, a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists, details how ExxonMobil has adopted the tobacco industry’s disinformation tactics, as well as some of the same organizations and personnel, to cloud the scientific understanding of climate change and delay action on the issue. The section of the report on “Buying Government Access” includes discussion of documentation we made available in 2005 and issues we have raised since then.

The Tobacco Model

The Exxon/industry campaign strategies and tactics did not come out of nowhere. Tobacco companies had paved, refined and perfected the way.

After scientists and doctors began to warn that tobacco was causing cancer in people, tobacco companies came up with a plan to block the government from regulating their product. They created a campaign to convince the public that the science was not certain. They pioneered the use of organizations disguised as political and ideological organizations to disseminate anti-government propaganda aimed at preventing regulation of their product.

More than 480,000 Americans still die every year because of what the tobacco industry did. But their campaign to keep the profits rolling in didn’t just kill people; it turned a substantial portion of the American public against their own government. They disguised their propaganda as “limited government” ideology, but it was really just a plan to limit the government from regulating them.

The tobacco campaign worked for decades – bringing billions more in profits after the dangers of the product were known. Now that strategy serves as a model for other corporations that push products that injure, kill, scam, cheat or otherwise hurt people and worry that the government might try to do something about them.

In 2008 Chris Mooney wrote at The American Prospect about companies using the tobacco industry’s model in, “The Manufacture of Uncertainty,” reviewing the book “Doubt is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health” by David Michaels. Mooney wrote:

The sabotage of science is now a routine part of American politics. The same corporate strategy of bombarding the courts and regulatory agencies with a barrage of dubious scientific information has been tried on innumerable occasions – and it has nearly always worked, at least for a time. Tobacco. Asbestos. Lead. Vinyl chloride. Chromium. Formaldehyde. Arsenic. Atrazine. Benzene. Beryllium. Mercury. Vioxx. And on and on. In battles over regulating these and many other dangerous substances, money has bought science, and then science – or, more precisely, artificially exaggerated uncertainty about scientific findings – has greatly delayed action to protect public and worker safety. And in many cases, people have died.

Tobacco companies perfected the ruse, which was later copycatted by other polluting or health-endangering industries. One tobacco executive was even dumb enough to write it down in 1969. “Doubt is our product,” reads the infamous memo, “since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”

A Wider Conspiracy?

This may be a wider corporate conspiracy that involves more than just one company. The massive campaign to block carbon regulation by turning Americans against their own government was not just an effort by Exxon. Meteor Blades explains at DailyKos, in “Former DOJ attorney beat Big Tobacco, wants probe of Exxon and others who buried climate change info“:

One of Exxon and other fossil fuel companies’ efforts included helping to establish the Global Climate Coalition in 1989 shortly after the first meeting of the U.N.-created Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Among GCC’s efforts was a tendentious video it provided to journalists at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in which it claimed, among other things, that more CO2 in the atmosphere would boost crop yields. So, something to cheer rather than worry about.

Until 1997, according to SourceWatch, GCC operated out of the offices of the National Association of Manufacturers. Among its members besides Exxon: the American Forest & Paper Association, American Petroleum Institute, Chevron, Ford, General Motors, Shell Oil, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The organization was disbanded in 2002, although neither Exxon nor other former members gave up their propaganda war against climate science.

That organization was disbanded, but the funding of these anti-government, science-denial front groups continues.

Demands Grow For An Investigation

Last week, representatives Ted Lieu and Mark DeSaulnier, who serve on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, requested a Department of Justice investigation into Exxon.

“In this case, Exxon scientists knew about fossil fuels causing global warming and Exxon took internal actions based on its knowledge of climate change,” Lieu and DeSaulnier wrote. “Yet Exxon funded and publicly engaged in a campaign to deceive the American people about the known risks of fossil fuels in causing climate change.”

“If these allegations against Exxon are true then Exxon’s actions were immoral,” they added. “We request the DOJ to investigate whether ExxonMobil’s actions were also illegal.”

On Friday presidential candidate Martin O’Malley joined in, tweeting “We held tobacco companies responsible for lying about cancer. Let’s do the same for oil companies & climate change.” The tweet linked to a New Republic report on the Lieu/DeSaulnier letter.

Climate Progress wrote Tuesday that Sharon Eubanks, a “former U.S. Department of Justice attorney who prosecuted and won the massive racketeering case against Big Tobacco thinks the agency should consider investigating Big Oil for similar claims: engaging in a cover-up to mislead the public about the risks of its product.”

Sharon Eubanks, who now works for the firm Bordas & Bordas, told ThinkProgress that ExxonMobil and other members of the fossil fuel industry could be held liable for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) if it’s discovered that the companies worked together to suppress knowledge about the reality of human-caused climate change. She said that, considering recent revelations regarding ExxonMobil, the DOJ should consider launching an investigation into big fossil fuel companies.

“I think a RICO action is plausible and should be considered,” she said.

Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders brought more attention to the charges this week, sending a letter to the Justice Department asking for a probe of Exxon, bringing attention to an issue that has been bubbling up for some time. Sanders’ press release explains the reason a probe is in order:

“Exxon Mobil knew the truth about fossil fuels and climate change and lied to protect their business model at the expense of the planet,” Sanders said. He likened Exxon Mobil’s conduct to claims by the tobacco industry about the health risks associated with smoking.

From Sanders’ letter:

“These reports, if true, raise serious allegations of a misinformation campaign that may have caused public harm similar to the tobacco industry’s actions — conduct that led to federal racketeering convictions.”

Polluting Democracy, Too

This propaganda and the money that propelled it has polluted our entire political system. Look into almost any organization (or political party) promoting “limited government” and complaining about “burdensome government regulation” and you will find oil money. This is not ideology; this is corruption. This is giant corporations trying to keep the government from doing something about their dangerous, destructive products.

This is a crime against our country and the world. It is a crime against our democratic system. The companies behind this enormous fraud on the public must be investigated for possible criminal activity. The front groups that disseminate anti-government, anti-regulation propaganda at their behest should be exposed as frauds and brought under control.

Now we have to move forward as quickly as possible to limit the burning of fossil fuels. Because of these companies and their fraud and disinformation, it is too late to stop the climate from changing – but it might not be too late to ward off the worst effects

US forests under threat as demand for wood-based biofuels grows – report

An increase in US wood pellet exports intended to reduce reliance on fossil fuels may be threatening ecologically important forests across the country, according to a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council

European Union (EU) rules intended to reduce power plant reliance on fossil fuels are threatening significant areas of ecologically important hardwood forests across the southeastern US, and will do little to mitigate carbon emissions, according to a new report.

The report, produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in collaboration with the Conservation Biology Institute, detailed a 150% increase in wood pellet exports (pdf) from the US during the past three years. Most are bound for Europe, where power companies are replacing coal and other fossil fuels with wood-based biofuels in order to benefit from EU incentives on renewable energy sources.

Debbie Hammel, senior resource specialist for NRDC’s Land and Wildlife Program, said that the EU has few safeguards to ensure that wood pellet biofuel comes from plantation-grown trees and wood remnants, rather than wood harvested from mature forests. That calls into serious question EU claims of carbon-neutral biomass fuels, she said.

“When you burn wood pellets you are immediately and instantaneously releasing carbon into the atmosphere,” said Hammel. “And there’s very little certainty that those forests will continue to grow over the long term.”

The report detailed geographic information system mapping (GIS) conducted in bottomland hardwood forests and wetlands in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and southeastern Georgia – areas that have experienced rapid expansion of wood pellet manufacturing since 2012. It identified parts of Louisiana as another emerging zone of concern.

The report warned that 24m acres of unprotected forest lands across the southeastern US are at risk, largely from European biomass operations. It predicts that wood pellet manufacturing throughout the region could increase twelve-fold by 2020.

As new pellet mills come online, the report said, the areas they target for wood harvesting are likely to overlap with those of existing mills, creating what the report referred to as wood sourcing hotspots and intensifying potential ecosystem damage.

Southeastern forests in the US have long been under threat from urban sprawl, agriculture and the pulp and paper industries. Today, they are also increasingly under threat from rising sea levels. With the rise of the wood pellet industry, the risks to these ecosystems, which include hundreds of endangered, imperiled and threatened species, could escalate dramatically, warned James Strittholt, president of the Conservation Biology Institute.

“It makes perfect sense that we work toward a non-fossil fuel energy source – no argument there – but the issue is the alternatives we pick are not always benign and we need to be thoughtful about that,” Strittholt said. “Just because it’s trees and not fossil fuel, it shouldn’t be everything goes, because everything will indeed go if there aren’t some kinds of controls.”

Strittholt observed that development of new wood pellet facilities is moving much faster than regulators can respond. He noted that some of the forest lands identified just last year in the mapping project as future harvest sites have already been affected.

“From the looks of the data we’re seeing … there’s an economic opportunity, there’s a market, so the corporate response can be quite rapid compared with any safeguarding mechanisms already in place,” he said.

Pellet manufacturer Enviva and British utility Drax Power are leaders in the region’s expanding biomass industry. In an email, Enviva’s vice president of communications, Kent Jenkins Jr, countered some of the report findings. He said the majority of wood used by Enviva’s production plants in Virginia and North Carolina comes from upland forest and mixed stands rather than mature bottomland hardwood.

“Regardless of the source, we use only leftover and low-grade wood that undergoes a rigorous sustainability assessment, certified by independent third parties,” Jenkins said.

Hammel dismissed wood pellet makers’ sustainability standards as “extraordinarily insufficient”. She said companies need to be more transparent about the source of wood used in their products and decrease reliance on mature forests that might take hundreds of years to regrow, thereby undermining any potential emission mitigation.

The NRDC is urging the EU to enact more stringent standards for biomass carbon accounting. The organization is also asking the EU to cap the amount of biofuel permitted in power generation so the demand doesn’t outstrip the supply of actual low-carbon biomass like sawdust and remnant wood.

“These forests are our best defense against climate change,” Hammel said. “They soak up carbon and provide habitat for critically endangered species. EU policymakers need to do the right thing and protect forests and climate.”

Exxon’s Climate Cover-Up Should Be Investigated By DOJ, Tobacco Prosecutor Says

A former U.S. Department of Justice attorney who prosecuted and won the massive racketeering case against Big Tobacco thinks the agency should consider investigating Big Oil for similar claims: engaging in a cover-up to mislead the public about the risks of its product.

Sharon Eubanks, who now works for the firm Bordas & Bordas, told ThinkProgress that ExxonMobil and other members of the fossil fuel industry could be held liable for violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) if it’s discovered that the companies worked together to suppress knowledge about the reality of human-caused climate change. She said that, considering recent revelations regarding ExxonMobil, the DOJ should consider launching an investigation into big fossil fuel companies.

“I think a RICO action is plausible and should be considered,” she said.

Eubanks’ comments come a few days after two House Democrats urged Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch an investigation into ExxonMobil for hiding the results of its own climate change research. Recent investigations from Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times discovered that ExxonMobil conducted research in 1977 affirming that climate change was caused by carbon emissions from fossil fuels, yet continued to fund politicians and organizations that deny climate science and work to prevent regulations limiting carbon emissions.

Many have compared the situation to the actions of the tobacco industry. In 2006, a federal judge found that the big tobacco companies colluded to “deceive the public” about the health hazards of smoking, which amounted to a racketeering enterprise. The reason they did it, Eubanks said, was to avoid health regulations and save money.

“The cigarette companies actively denied the harm of cigarette smoking, and concealed the results of what their own research developed,” she said. “The motivation was money, and to avoid regulation.”

It appears to me … that there was a concerted effort by Exxon and others to confuse the public on climate change.

Based on the revelations about ExxonMobil, Eubanks said the Department of Justice should consider investigating whether similar collusion occurred among big fossil fuel companies and other high-carbon-emitting industries that would profit from climate denial.

“It appears to me, based on what we know so far, that there was a concerted effort by Exxon and others to confuse the public on climate change,” Eubanks said. “They were actively denying the impact of human-caused carbon emissions, even when their own research showed otherwise.”

In addition to giving millions of dollars to politicians and groups that deny climate science, ExxonMobil helped found the Global Climate Coalition, “an alliance of some of the world’s largest companies seeking to halt government efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions,” according to Inside Climate. Exxon’s company leaders also argued against the Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty to fight climate change which the U.S. refused to sign. Exxon reportedly advised then-President George W. Bush not to sign it.

Critics say ExxonMobil did this while knowing full well the risks of climate change, which is expected to include the displacement of millions of people and even the erasure of some low-lying island nations.

Because of this, calls for a DOJ investigation into ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies are getting louder. Last week, Democratic presidential candidate and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley tweeted his support for an investigation, drawing yet another parallel to the tobacco industry.

“We held tobacco companies responsible for lying about cancer,” O’Malley said. “Let’s do the same for oil companies and climate change.”

However, Eubanks warned that if the charge is anything like the tobacco case, a DOJ investigation would need bi-partisan support — or a Democratic-controlled Congress and White House — to be successful. She recalled dealing with a Republican-controlled Congress during the prosecution of the tobacco industry, and then later, a Republican president who did not want to see the industry hurt.

“We filed the case under the Clinton administration, and we struggled with budget issues — many of the Republicans pushed hard to push us down,” Eubanks said.

After Bush was elected, the environment at the DOJ worsened. “They were trying to choke the case off,” she said. “It was a long time ago, but i still get queasy feeling when I think about working seven-day weeks all the time, and a nine-month trial, to see these people trying to kill the case.”

She did eventually win the case, but at a cost, Eubanks said. Instead of the $130 billion her team had sought, Bush administration loyalists pushed her team to seek only $10 billion, she said.

“This is more important than just running a case.”

Still, Eubanks stressed than a similar investigation into ExxonMobil could be worthwhile under any political circumstances — even if it’s to find out that there’s not enough evidence to bring a lawsuit at all.

“I can’t tell you that it clears every hurdle,” she said. “I’m not an environmental lawyer. But I know it’s important…This is more important than just running a case. That much I’m sure of.”

Jan Allen Plans to Turn Everyone’s Food Waste into Renewable Energy with This Machine

Jan Allen has been involved in design, construction and operation of organics facilities for over 25 years. Now, he is the president of Impact Bioenergy, a company developing a machine that can convert organic waste materials into energy and fertilizer with zero waste. The machine has the capability to converting 25 tons of waste into energy each year.

Allen tells us about the machine, referred to as the “HORSE”, as well as the company’s goal of making communities more self-sufficient and granting individuals the opportunity to create renewable energy right on their property.

Electronics360: Can you tell me a little bit about your background? Do you come from a technical background since your work is generally focused around an electricity-producing machine?

Jan Allen: I have been involved in design, construction and operation of organics facilities since 1989. The aerobic (composting) facilities I designed have diverted over 10 million tons or organics from landfilling and the anaerobic systems produce 10 MW of renewable energy. I am the registered inventor of six U.S. Patents for composting, digestion and biofiltration. I’m a professional civil engineer and was educated at Purdue University in Indiana. I’m more of a microbiologist and nuts and bolts guy than an electrical guy.

Electronics360: Where did you come up with the concept for the HORSE?

Jan Allen: When I was in college, my advisor persuaded me to build three small digesters to convert waste into renewable natural gas. It was an inspiring project. Then much later in my career, I was working for a large firm in Boston that had a mission to build large urban power stations that are fueled by commercial food waste. When I was there, I was impressed at how many inquiries we received for smaller systems. My company did not want to bother with small projects. No one else in the industry did either.

So that was the main reason for starting Impact Bioenergy. There was a need and no one was filling it.

Now there are at least 35 companies selling or developing owner-operator anaerobic digestion technology in North America. Not one of them has scaled down to restaurant, office, campus, or hotel scale. Not one of them has brought the footprint and cost down to the onsite or community scale. It’s not that the technology can’t be scaled—it’s more about conventional wisdom with supersized facilities and long development timelines—on the order of two to 10 years. Conventional wisdom says that small projects take as much effort as big ones, but are not as profitable. These companies just don’t recognize the high cost and risk of permitting and waste transport.



Electronics360: Can you explain the science and technology behind the machine?

Jan Allen: It is a liquid system that uses microbes to mimic a living animal. We call it a HORSE, but it functions like a mechanical cow. The food waste is called feedstock and has to be ground and pureed into a smoothie-like consistency. It is metering into the system in small doses continuously and automatically. The system is maintained at 100 F°, is mixed, is airtight (anaerobic), and is monitored for pH, gas production, liquid level, pressure, etc. A gallon of feedstock takes 30 days to make it through the two stages and then overflows out as digested liquid plant food. There are only four moving parts: a mixer, heating pump, grinder pump and dosing valve. There is a gas manifold and a liquid manifold to manage the system.

Electronics360: How exactly does it generate electricity? How much power can it really produce?

Jan Allen: The machine makes natural gas. The gas is stored in a gas storage vessel until it can be used. To make electricity, the gas is used as a fuel in an engine generator. This is an ideal application for combined heat and power. The machine is rated for a full speed output of 15,000 BTU per hour. There are lots of choices for engine types, CHP systems, electrical efficiencies, etc. In general, making heat or hot water can be 90% to 94% efficient. Making electricity only can be 12% to 40% efficient. Making combined heat and power can be somewhere between these figures.

It will consume 25 tons per year of food scraps, beverages, fat and paper products. It can create 5,400 gallons per year of liquid fertilizer and up to 37 MW-hrs of raw energy. As renewable gas, that’s 125 Million BTU per year (4.3 MW-hrs of this energy is electrical output).

This is what that is equivalent to:


Electronics360: How do you envision the HORSE working in a community?

Jan Allen: The vision is to become more self-sufficient and to make renewable energy on your property and fertilize your own or a nearby garden or farm to grow food and flowers. The HORSE is both a sustainability and society game changer. It’s all about the quadruple bottom line: people, planet, profit and progress. There are 700,000 restaurants and 4,000 college campuses in North America. Each one should have their own HORSE. Just imagine the sustainable energy revolution for islands, resorts, zoos, museums, schools, parks, convention centers, farmer’s markets, music venues, apartments and corporate and municipal campuses as they turn food scraps into energy. This is just the beginning.

The HORSE will eradicate curbside garbage pickup and the carbon emissions associated with long distance trucking. It will create a whole new shared carbon-negative transportation model for local use: less trucking plus no landfilling plus renewable energy! Its combined benefit is disruptive and huge; It’s decentralized—it’s portable—it’s affordable. Imagine a technology that can divert waste and create energy off-grid. Imagine eliminating the organic waste from your trashcan. Imagine making it into two valuable new resources that you can personally or commercially use.

Electronics360: What are Impact Bioenergy’s goals at this point?

Jan Allen: To establish a few key partnerships and get these machines on the ground and operating. Everyone wants to see one working. We need reference facilities.

Electronics360: Where do you see yourself and the company in 10 years?

Jan Allen: We see a network of community supporting biocycling groups sharing information with each other. Impact Bioenergy is the core technology provider, designer, builder and supplier of the HORSE digester. CSB is the service end of a strategic partnering program that helps remove barriers to market this transformational technology in different locations. It is a partnering program between businesses such as breweries, restaurants, markets, urban farmers, and gardeners. What is Biocycling? Biocycling is the recycling of organic materials. In the context of our project, this term describes the process of taking organic wastes such as food scraps and converting it into liquid fertilizer and energy that can once more be used directly on the farm at which these food resources were originally produced. We like to say…Farm to fork to fertilizer and fuel, and back to the farm again.

Electronics360: Is there any other technology currently being developed behind the scenes?

Jan Allen: We are working on upgrading the biogas to CNG vehicle fuel. Back to the Future may be fictional, but the machine that converts food scraps into energy is here, because we just built it. This is a living machine that eats food scraps and makes energy and plant food using microbes with zero waste.

Electronics360: What do you find most challenging about being part of a company based on technology geared toward improving the environment?

Jan Allen: Right now the company needs operating systems on the ground so people can see the technology in action in an urban environment. To that end, a recent crowdfunding project has successfully reached its goal just this month to build a reference facility in Seattle. Remarkably, about 30% of the money pledged came from individuals in New York City.

Biggest lessons learned on the business end are:

that being disruptive means some existing stakeholders will not embrace your good idea
that triple bottom line decisions that account for environmental, social values in dollars is very rare indeed
that accountants rule the day on payback period, return on investment, cost savings, etc. Remarkably this technology does offer what the accountants want.
Biggest lessons learned on the social and cultural end are:

The idea of converting waste into energy and organic matter with zero waste really resonates. Impact Bioenergy has no payroll, but three full time workers, seven part time workers, and a constant stream of job seekers and volunteers

Overall there were 16,000 video starts on the crowdfunding page

People in 68 countries clicked into the crowdfunding page and video

The biggest lessons on the technology/environment end are:

This technology is no more complicated that having a real horse or a large aquarium. The machine wants to be fed lots of small meals, doesn’t like to be cold, and sometimes needs antacids

Visual art and odor control are essential. They are integrated into the design so it fits in the urban setting

The big win here is eliminating trucks hauling waste away and hauling food into the city. That is two groups of trucks! Trucking is a huge cost and environmental burden to the city in air quality, greenhouse gases, congestion, noise, fuel use and export of resources and jobs away from the community.

Using a HORSE eliminates the odor, flies, rats, seagulls and leakage associated with the traditional dumpster.

Question or comments on this article? Contact an editor:

Thousands clash with police over incinerator construction in Guangdong

Violence has broken out between the police and thousands of villagers in Guangdong protesting over the building of a trash incinerator.

Villagers in Yangchun, Guangdong have been protesting since October 3, blocking the highway leading to the incinerator. Many demonstrators have been arrested. Clashes intensified this week when villagers knocked over a police vehicle and set it on fire,Apple Daily reported.

The Conch Cement Company had concealed the fact that it was building and testing an incinerator facility in its factory area. The gases and contaminants generated, such as dioxin, would affect the residents who lived nearby, according to US-backed Radio Free Asia.

“How will we survive breathing in noxious smoke?” an Internet firm employee told Reuters earlier this month.


The building of the incinerator was seen as a sign of corruption and collusion between government officials and businesses as it was reportedly pushed through without having undergone an environmental impact assessment. The public had not been informed of the project beforehand and it was also not subjected to government supervision, Stand News reported.

Videos and pictures on social media showed thousands of protesters gathered at the door of the company’s factory, holding red flags and bats. The police were reported to have used tear gas and arrested many of the protesters. Vehicles had been burnt, and many police officers and protesters were injured in the clashes.

Protests over environmental issues are common in China, especially in Guangdong.CNA News reported that a similar incident had happened this year when thousands protested over the building of an incinerator in Wuchuan, Zhanjiang in Guangdong.

Frequently Asked Energy Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How much coal, natural gas, or petroleum is used to generate a kilowatthour of electricity?

The amount of fuel used to generate electricity depends on the efficiency or heat rate of the generator (or power plant) and the heat content of the fuel. Power plant efficiencies (heat rates) vary by types of generators, power plant emission controls, and other factors. Fuel heat contents also vary.

Two formulas that can be used to calculate the amount of fuel used to generate a kilowatthour (kWh) of electricity:
• Amount of fuel used per kWh = Heat rate (in Btu per kWh) / Fuel heat content (in Btu per physical unit)
• Kilowatthour generated per unit of fuel used = Fuel heat content (in Btu per physical unit) / Heat rate (in Btu per kWh)

Calculation examples using these two formulas and the assumptions below:
• Amount of fuel used to generate 1 kilowatthour (kWh): • Coal = 0.00052 short tons or 1.05 pounds
• Natural gas = 0.01010 Mcf (an Mcf equals 1,000 cubic feet)
• Petroleum = 0.00175 barrels (or 0.07 gallons)

• Kilowatthour generated per unit of fuel used: • 1,904 kWh per ton, 0.95 kWh per pound, of coal
• 99 kWh per Mcf (1,000 cubic feet) of natural gas
• 570 kWh per barrel, or 13.6 kWh per gallon, of petroleum
Power plant heat rate1

Coal = 10,089 Btu/kWh
Natural gas = 10,354 Btu/kWh
Petroleum = 10,334 Btu/kWh

Fuel heat contents2

Coal = 19,210,000 Btu per short ton (2,000 pounds) Note: heat contents of coal vary widely by types of coal
Natural gas = 1,025,000 Btu per 1,000 cubic feet (Mcf)
Petroleum = 5,892,000 Btu per Barrel (42 gallons) Note: Heat contents vary by type of petroleum product

1 Heat rates for steam electric generators in 2013.
2 Heat contents for fuels consumed by the electric power sector in 2013.

Water Utility Inaugurates Waste-to-Energy Project

The District of Columbia’s water utility, DC Water, has unveiled a $470 million waste-to-energy project that will produce a net 10 megawatts (MW) of electricity from the wastewater treatment process. The result is energy that powers approximately one-third of the Blue Plains treatment plant’s energy requirements.

The project began in 2011 and brought in new technology to North America such as the CAMBI thermal hydrolysis process. Thermal hydrolysis uses high heat and pressure to “pressure cook” the solids left over at the end of the wastewater treatment process. This weakens the solids’ cell walls and the structure between cells to make the energy more easily accessible to organisms in the next stage of the process, anaerobic digestion. The methane these organisms produce is captured and fed to three turbines to produce electricity. Steam is also captured and directed back into the process.

Finally, the solids at the end of the process are a cleaner Class A biosolids product that DC Water uses as a compost-like material. Biosolids products are currently being used around the District for urban gardens and green infrastructure projects. DC Water is also working to bring a compost-like product to market.

The project was based on more than a decade of research before bringing these facilities online. The project also received a 2012 Grand Prize in Planning Award from the American Academy of Environmental Engineers & Scientists, a 2012 Global Honor Award in Planning from the International Water Association and a WERF Excellence in Innovation Award was presented in 2011.

Sweden R&D team says dye-sensitized cells may work better when “dead”

October 12 (SeeNews) – Researchers at Uppsala University, Sweden, have discovered that some old dye-sensitized solar cells can perform better when they have dried-out, and are conducting further research in the work of such “zombie” solar cells.

In the so-called Graetzel cell, an electrically conductive liquid facilitates a flow of electrons. When this liquid was gone, a solid hole conducting structure was created, continuing to transport positive charge, as revealed by Gerrit Boschloo’s group at the Department of Chemistry-Angstroem Laboratory.

In certain cases, the dried-out solar cells worked better than before. Boschloo said specific cells had hit 8% power conversion efficiency, a record for dye-sensitized solar cells with a solid hole conductor.

“Several companies have said that if it would only seal properly, they’d invest in liquid-based solar cells. If we would be able to seal these ‘zombie cells’ so that they would last for years, it would be very interesting,” Boschloo commented.

The research group is collaborating with two chemistry groups at The Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and experts in the field of industrial manufacturing from Swerea IVF. The researchers have filed a patent application for the “zombie solar cell” through their own company Dyenamo.