Blog Posts: Financialization of Nature

May 16th, 2018

This Fracking Profiteer You’ve Never Heard of Is the Richest Man in the UK

Ineos CEO James Ratcliffe makes a fortune from fracking in the U.S. Now he wants to frack the UK—but community resistance is stopping him

The British media are buzzing about a big change at the top: The richest man in the UK, it turns out, is now a fabulously wealthy chemical CEO who tries to keep a low profile.

Jim Ratcliffe made it to the very top of the Sunday Times’ “Rich List” with a fortune of around $28 billion. Many of the stories about him point out that he is publicity shy and came from relatively humble beginnings, amassing considerable wealth all on his own.

But Ratcliff’s road to riches sounds pretty familiar: it was paved with risky corporate takeovers, a hostility to workers’ rights, and a willingness to cut corners on safety and violate environmental regulations the world over.

While he might be eager to avoid the spotlight, Food & Water Watch has been raising awareness about Ineos on both sides of the Atlantic. Ineos is a petrochemical giant that relies on fracking to provide the raw materials to create plastics around the world. The company has amassed a terrifying record of environmental and public health disasters—air and climate pollution, massive fires and other industrial accidents, and alarming emissions of carbon dioxide. He’s already benefitting from fracking in Pennsylvania, where communities are fighting the Mariner East 2 pipeline that would bring even more raw materials to the UK for Ineos to convert into plastics for profit.

But Ratcliffe wants more. His nightmare vision for the UK is to bring fracking to Scotland and England. The company holds valuable shale licenses and aims to start drilling in sensitive areas in both countries.

Read the full article…

April 11th, 2018

Learn More About Methane, An Underestimated Greenhouse Gas

On 21 March Food & Water Europe co-organized a webinar on methane with Robert Howarth, Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology at Cornell University. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas that is closely linked to the extraction and transport of fossil gas.

[Here is the recording of the webinar, as well as a written summary of the issues discussed and the power point presentation.]

Howarth states that methane emission reductions are crucial if the global community wants to have a chance to stay well below 2 degrees global warming (a temperature rise beyond 2 degrees is more than dangerous for humanity). There has been a clear rise in methane emissions in the past few years: methane emissions from human activity have increased by 170 percent.

Read the full article…

April 6th, 2018

Blog: Europe’s Terminals to Import Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Heavily Underused

See the 24 July 2019 updated blog

By Andy Gheorghiu and Frida Kieninger

This month, Food & Water Europe analyzed the utilization rate of EU LNG terminals based on data from Gas Infrastructure Europe. LNG terminals are facilities that enable the import of liquefied natural gas (LNG), gas that is cooled down so its volume is reduced by a ratio of 1:600 and can be shipped across the ocean via LNG tankers.

What is a utilization rate, and why does it matter?

The utilization rate is the percentage at which existing LNG infrastructure is actually being used. In other words, if a terminal has an annual import capacity of 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas, but only imports 5 bcm, its utilization rate is at 50 percent.

The time period we looked at was from 2012 until early 2018 and it is striking at how little these costly facilities have been used during the past six years. It is important to take into account the low utilization rates since they show clearly that there is no need to invest in more LNG facilities. Nevertheless, there is a push for more LNG terminals in Europe and several of these costly facilities are being planned. If we don’t want to lock Europe into even more fossil fuels and move to a renewable energy system, we cannot waste money on LNG infrastructure but have to channel as much financial and political support as possible to renewables.
Read the full article…

January 22nd, 2018

Ready, Steady, 2018: What Food & Water Europe Will Fight for in the Coming Year

By Frida Kieninger, David Sánchez and Andy Gheorghiu

In 2017 we worked hard to change things for the better – fighting for sustainable agriculture, public water, better trade agreements, and clean energy solutions. The past year was a tough one seeing U.S. President Trump’s destructive decisions on social, energy and environmental issues and another series of devastating disasters linked to climate change. Nevertheless, now more than ever we are motivated to make 2018 a successful year for our beautiful fragile planet. Can we count on you?

Read the full article…

January 16th, 2018

European Activists Invited to Talk About Opposition to Gas Infrastructure in the European Parliament

If you are around Brussels this month, you are more than welcome to participate in our event on 22 January, bringing the voices of anti-gas infrastructure activists to the European Parliament. The event will take place from 13:30-14:30 in room PHS 01C051.

Why is Gas on the EU-Parliament’s Agenda this Month?

On the following day, Tuesday 23 January, the European Commission will talk to Members of Parliament about a new priority list for gas and electricity projects. Food & Water Europe followed the establishment of this list carefully and heavily criticises it because:

  • It is too focused on fossil fuel (gas) infrastructure to the detriment of renewables.
  • Support for subsidizing gas projects is not in line with the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • It is marked by conflicts of interest due to heavy industry involvement.
  • It incentivises the misuse of public money for unneeded fossil fuel projects will end up as stranded assets.

Read the full article…

December 18th, 2017

Meet the European Petrochemical Giant Trying to Profit from the Fracking of Pennsylvania

The Controversial Mariner East 2 Pipeline Would Carry Gas Liquids for Plastics Production Overseas

By Wenonah Hauter

It seems that every week brings more bad news about the construction of Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline. While Pennsylvania communities, water protectors and landowners fight to stop the project, a larger question remains: What is this massive, dangerous pipeline actually for? The one word answer might surprise you: plastics.

The Mariner East 2 won’t carry “natural gas” for heating your house or operating a stove. It will transport highly volatile liquids that will mostly be shipped overseas to be turned into plastics by a giant chemical corporation with a terrible environmental record.

Ineos’s pro-fracking agenda has spawned a citizen movement in Europe, where residents are fighting to prevent the company’s plans to frack the United Kingdom.

In other words, Sunoco and its parent company Energy Transfer Partners are putting Pennsylvania communities at risk—from the immediate negative impacts of fracking in the western parts of the state, to the long-term risks to families living near the 350-mile pipeline—in order to supply a giant corporation making plastic pellets, many of which wind up littering shorelines across Europe.

My organization, Food & Water Watch, has been digging deep into Ineos, the massive chemical conglomerate profiting from the fracked gas liquids out of Pennsylvania. Ineos founder and chairman Jim Ratcliffe amassed his petrochemical empire in short order, thanks to risky bets and highly leveraged takeovers and acquisitions. The Mariner East 2 pipeline represents one more dangerous Ineos “innovation”—it delivers fracked hydrocarbons to the Marcus Hook facility near Philadelphia, where they are loaded onto the company’s “dragon ships” headed to facilities in Scotland and Norway.

Read the full article…

December 12th, 2017

Fighting Big Oil and Gas in Northern Germany

by Andy Gheorghiu and Frida Kieninger

Photo by: Christian Eckhardt

Natural gas plant near Großenkneten
Photo by: Christian Eckhardt

On 2 December, a number of German citizens’ initiatives[1] met with Food & Water Europe in Hamburg to discuss oil and gas exploration in the country and strategies for the coming year.

The main points discussed were planned exploration in a water protection area in Verden, Lower Saxony, an international project by Hansa Hydrocarbons to drill for gas in the North Sea (nearby the Wadden Sea), and the construction of a terminal to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) in Brunsbüttel port.

New drilling in a water protection area?

Read the full article…

December 7th, 2017

Global Frackdown 2017: Letters from Mexico

Anti-fracking event VeracruzMexico has been identified as having significant shale oil and gas potential and the Mexican government appears keen to develop its shale resources.

Meanwhile, more and more Mexicans are becoming aware of the dangers of fracking and are mobilizing to oppose plans to sell off clean air and water as well as healthy communities to the incessant greed for profit of big oil and gas companies.

Read the full article…

November 29th, 2017

Up to the Last Drop: The Secret Water War in Europe

By David Sánchez

Water is a human right and a common good. But it is also one of the main focuses of transnational corporations that want to profit from this scarce resource. The struggle to defend public water is now exposed in the new documentary Up to the Last Drop: The Secret Water War in Europe.

For decades, corporations have pushed for the privatization of public services – including water. In Europe, several attempts supported by the European Commission have been launched since the neoliberal wave of the 90s. Still, today some of the countries affected by the austerity crisis – Ireland, Greece, Portugal – are resisting water privatization imposed by the Troika. Water has been on the negotiation table of the new wave of free trade agreements like TTIP and TISA, and is included in CETA, which contains several provisions that put public water management and water resources under international trade and investment mechanisms.

Read the full article…

September 26th, 2017

Betting on Chaos: Financial Firms Seek to Cash In on Climate Change

By Mitch Jones

Earlier this month the Financial Times reported that a new climate change prediction market [subscription required] is being created in the United Kingdom. The market, similar to a sports betting book, is the “brainchild” of the financial firm Winton Capital. Initially, the market will allow bets on levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and on temperature rises, but Winton Capital hopes to expand it in the future so that sea level rise, extreme weather, and other pollution levels become the topic of bets.

What’s equally strange is that Winton Capital is paying for this market out of its philanthropic budget. There’s nothing philanthropic about betting on climate change.
Read the full article…

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