Blog Posts

May 22nd, 2018

We Prevented a Bad Change to Environmental Law – For Now

Change to ASEA law would have enabled conflicts of interest in environmental monitoring of fossil fuel industry in Mexico

This is the translation of a blog written by the Mexican Alliance Against Fracking (Alianza Mexicana contra el Fracking), a coalition of 40 local, state and national organizations in Mexico advocating for a ban on fracking. Food & Water Watch is part of this coalition.

Thanks to the work of organizations supported by citizens and some lawmakers, we managed to prevent a legislative proposal that would have possibly enabled dangerous conflicts of interest in the environmental monitoring authority of the fossil fuels sector in Mexico.

Two weeks before the end of the last legislative session, the Committee on Environment and Human Resources of the Chamber of Deputies passed an amendment to change the Law of the National Agency of Industrial Security and Environmental Protection in the fossil fuel sector (ASEA). The Mexican Alliance Against Fracking (Alianza Mexicana contra el Fracking) set out to assess this proposal, then reported on the significant risks it posed.

With the passage of energy reform in Mexico in 2013, ASEA was created to follow environmental issues specific to fossil fuel development. This has meant that instead of Mexico’s federal environmental agency (Semarnat) plus the environmental attorney’s office (Profepa) that have traditionally been in charge of all environmental issues, Mexico now has ASEA that oversees drafting regulations and permitting, monitoring, and sanctioning oil and gas companies. This agency has been bad news for communities and great news for the industry, because all permits have been fast tracked. This agency has shown significant deficiencies, including a clear distance to communities affected by contamination through fossil fuel operations.
Read the full article…

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 19th, 2018

Dolphins or LNG tankers in the Shannon Estuary?

Have your say on the building of a huge fracked gas LNG terminal by May 13th.

Ireland banned fracking but Sambolo Resources wants to open one of Europe’s biggest projects to process fracked material in a Shannon Estuary nature reserve where whales and dolphins swim. Right now, they’re trying to renew planning permission with An Bord Pleanála – who have acted very strangely.

The proposed plant is called Shannon LNG and it is huge: the proposed final maximum regasification capacity of at least 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year would equal the European Union’s most ambitious gas project, the Southern Gas Corridor, and supply Ireland’s fossil gas needs twice over. Fracked hydrocarbons would be tankered in from the United States, processed and much of it then sent to Europe. This project is a game changer, especially in jittery Brexit times.

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

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…

March 23rd, 2018

“Renewable Gas” Is Not Clean or Green

By Frida Kieninger

The fossil fuel industry has been trying hard to promote gas in many forms as “sustainable” or “green”. There are different ways of producing gas that the industry calls renewable, but this term is misleading. Is it sustainable or green to create dependence on waste, cut trees for biomass, and produce methane with the same chemical structure and characteristics as fossil gas?

Why does the fossil fuel industry want to promote the idea of non-fossil gas? As big infrastructure operators generally push for gas use in Europe, using the magic idea of renewable gas is very handy for them to justify decades of infrastructure buildout that serves both fossil and non-fossil gas. The question is: Does it add up? Will these gases significantly reduce CO2 emissions? Where does the feedstock for these gases come from? Does all this make economic sense?

Here are a few of the issues that need to be taken into account when we’re talking about non-fossil “renewable” gas.

Biogas: The Biofuels Deja-vu

Since their introduction, biofuels have earned a lot of criticism for their role in land grabs, displacing food crops for energy, loss of biodiversity, climate change and pollution. While biofuels liquid fuels based on biomass turned out to be a very bad idea, something similar seems to have been re-introduced through the back door: biogas. Biogas is a mix of gases generated through the breakdown of organic matter through anaerobic digestion (digestion in the absence of oxygen).

Feedstock for biogas, for example, can be waste, sewage sludge, energy crops, manure or biomass. Using waste to generate energy can make sense in a few limited cases but we should not lock ourselves into a society dependent on producing enough waste that we can heat our homes or cook. Also, using manure will turn into an issue sooner rather than later, quite apart from the fact that manure does not automatically create methane and to a big extent it can be avoided. Biogas production is no justification for big agribusiness. But in Europe, big factory farms may only get built because they commit to produce biogas.

Read the full article…

March 12th, 2018

More Than 80 Organisations Ask the European Parliament to Stop Supporting Gas Infrastructure

By Frida Kieninger and Antoine T

For the first time, on March 14, Members of the European Parliament will have the opportunity to have their say on the European Union’s list of “Projects of Common Interest” (PCI List), a list of energy infrastructure projects that the EU wants to support and that is adopted every two years by the European Commission.

Despite being the first PCI List adopted after the ratification of the Paris Agreement by the EU, this list keeps ignoring the urgency to fight climate change and contains over 100 fossil fuel projects. Gas infrastructure projects on this list will be granted the highest national priority status and will be able to receive public funds.

Thanks to 82 MEPs from five political groups (Greens-EFA, GUE, EFDD, S&D and ALDE), an objection to this PCI List has been put on the agenda of the next plenary session of the European Parliament.

Over 80 organisations urged Members of European Parliament to adopt this resolution objecting to the PCI List in its current form and asking the European Commission to draft a new list truly compatible with the Paris Agreement.

 

Read the full article…

February 28th, 2018

Frack Off, Ineos: UK Doesn’t Want Fracking for Plastics

by Andy Gheorghiu

Amazing! Inspiring! Unifying! Empowering! Hopeful!

These would be the words I would choose if I’d have to describe my impressions about the “Ineos, Fracking and You” speakers tour that took place in Yorkshire and Derbyshire, North England, in February 2018 — a tour that gave me the opportunity to meet and work with fantastic campaigners and activists (Tony Bosworth, Chris Crean, Simon Bowens and Pollyanna Steiner from FoE EWNI, Steve Mason from Frack Free United, Kit Bennet from Frack Free York, Carol Hutchinson and Dave Kesteven from Eckington Against Fracking, Peter Roberts from Frack Free Ryedale, Matthew Trevelyan from Farmers Against Fracking, Eddie Thornton and Leigh Coghill from the Kirby Misperton Protection Camp as well as Bishop Graham Gray and many many more).

Read the full article…

February 5th, 2018

This Land is Our Land: The Fight to Stop Ineos from Fracking the UK

 The petrochemical giant that wants to frack to make plastic is meeting intense local opposition

by Andy Gheorghiu

The secretive chemical company Ineos has been leading the charge to bring the environmentally destructive method of drilling, known as fracking, to the United Kingdom (UK) and mainland Europe. The company’s goal is to produce cheap gas for its own plastics and petrochemical production. But the company is running into massive public opposition.

The first blow for Ineos came last year, when the Scottish Government voted for an indefinite moratorium on fracking – a proper, democratically supported move that has nonetheless prompted Ineos to launch a legal challenge against it.

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…

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