In this season we follow the fossil fuel industry’s efforts to use the COVID-19 pandemic to push through its wishlist of deregulation and subsidies. We didn't plan this season, but once we saw how quickly and forcefully the American Petroleum Institute and various other industry trade groups and companies began lobbying for Covid-related regulatory changes, we had to do it. We also launched a Covid-Climate tracker to keep tabs on the myriad federal, state, and local rollbacks and subsidies the industry was pushing.
Ep 1: How the Coronavirus Pandemic Turned into Christmas for Big Oil
The oil and gas industry was headed for broke long before COVID-19. Now the Trump administration wants to use the pandemic to put it on life support, while the American Petroleum Institute uses it to get the industry's deregulation wishlist.
Ep 2: Reporter Justin Mikulka on Why Exxon and Chevron Are the Biggest Opponents to a Shale Bailout
The American Petroleum Institute, ExxonMobil and Chevron have been amongst the biggest opponents to bailouts for shale gas companies as part of the coronavirus relief package. DeSmog's Justin Mikulka joins us to explain why.
Ep 3: Amid the Pandemic Free-for-All, Unlit Flares at Texas Shale Refineries Are Dumping "Unimaginable" Amounts of Methane into the Atmosphere
Field investigator Sharon Wilson has spotted a troubling increase in methane emissions from refineries in the Permian Basin, in Texas. Things went from bad to worse in January 2020, and really blew up in early March ... almost as though they knew regulators wouldn't be watching.
Ep 4: New Research Shows Fossil Fuels Are Not as Essential as the Industry Would Like You to Believe
Dr. Julia Steinberger, professor of social ecology and ecological economics at the University of Leeds, has published some really interesting research recently debunking some classic fossil fuel narratives around the industry's importance to society and human wellbeing. Here we dig into her latest study, which found that while fossil fuel use has certainly grown GDP, it has had no effect on life expectancy ... in other words the industry's "benefit" has accrued to relatively few humans. Study: "Your Money or Your Life?" Environmental Research Letters
Ep 5: In Colorado, Seniors Held Hostage by Fracking
Because of their proximity to oil and gas operations, residents of Broomfield, Colorado were at risk of exposure to flowback-driven air pollution during shelter-in-place orders, so the city issued an emergency decree for local operations to cease fracking flowback during the pandemic. Extraction Oil filed for a temporary restraining order to block the city's decree. It's the first test of Colorado's 2019 law prioritizing public health and safety over oil and gas production, which allows local governments to set safeguards that are more stringent than state regulations.
Ep 6: How Big Oil Is Using the Pandemic to Push More Plastic
In a new report, the Center for International Environmental Law looks at the way oil, gas and petrochemical companies are leveraging the pandemic to push policy and increase profits, and whether these efforts will ultimately be successful. Carroll Muffet, one of our S3 experts, joins to walk us through some of the key points of the report, including how the industry is using the pandemic to push more single-use plastics.
Ep 7: Earth Day in Louisiana—A Petro State Fights Back
On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and the week of the 10-year anniversary of the BP Deepwater oil spill, we head to Louisiana to talk petrochemicals, petroleum, plastic, fossil fueled philanthropy, and how the pandemic is affecting it all.
Ep 8: The U.S. Government Has Been Rubber-Stamping New Oil and Gas Projects—This Lawsuit Hopes to Change That
A lawsuit filed against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) over a small project in Massachusetts could have big implications. It aims to force FERC to comply with an order the courts gave it back in 2017, and that it's been ignoring ever since: to evaluate the overall emissions and climate change impact of any new energy project. The case has particular relevance right now as FERC has been rapidly approving every project that crosses its desk. Adam Carlesco, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, joins to walk us through the case.
Ep 9: Naomi Klein and How the Shock Doctrine Applies to America Right Now
Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine focused on what she calls "disaster capitalism," the sort of corporate feeding frenzy that happens in the wake of major crises. It was on a research trip for that book, to post-Katrina New Orleans, that she connected her work on human rights and labor to climate. Klein shares that journey here, explains the Green New Deal, and talks about what needs to happen to spur a justice-focused transformation in the U.S.
Ep 10: Big Oil's Multi-Billion-Dollar Blind Spot
A new report from Carbon Tracker finds that not only have oil and gas companies not been budgeting for plugging and abandoning wells, they've been grossly underestimating the cost of that work, especially for fracking wells. The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the problem. Report co-authors Rob Schuwerk and Greg Rogers join to talk about the size of the problem, the cost, and who will ultimately pay.
Ep 11: Pioneering Fracking Company Chesapeake Energy Goes Bust
Despite tax breaks, royalty cuts, and other COVID-related incentives, Chesapeake Energy—a pioneer in the American shale gas (fracking) industry—declared bankruptcy this week. It's the first example of what we expect to be many of the government throwing good money after bad in attempts to use COVID relief funds to shore up companies that were failing long before the pandemic hit.
Ep 12: That Ohio Utility Corruption Scandal, with Leah Stokes
The FBI arrested Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Larry Householder, this month for racketeering, or as the state attorney general put it "bribery, that's what it was." Private utility First Energy bribed Householder and a handful of other state politicians to pass a corporate bailout that kept coal and nuclear plants open and crushed renewables. UC Santa Barbara political science professor Leah Stokes, author of the book Short Circuiting Policy, joins to tell us all about it.