Boycott BP

Almost a year and a half has passed since the worst oil spill in U.S. history, but the aftereffects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster are still being felt. A federal report released today investigated the causes of the disaster and has come to the conclusion that BP is ultimately responsible for the oil spill. The BP oil spill wreaked havoc along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and killed thousands of animals. By boycotting BP, you can help take action against the company responsible for the worst oil disaster in U.S. history.

The report is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement. Findings contained in the report will be used by lawyers representing victims of the oil spill and by government agencies to incriminate BP, as the government is currently considering pressing both civil and criminal charges against the oil company. The report will also help to encourage reforms of offshore drilling regulations.

The BP disaster started on the night of April 20, 2010, when an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, killing 11 men and injuring 17 others. Fire from the explosion lasted for 36 hours until the rig eventually sank. On April 22nd, an oil leak was discovered. Oil continued to flow into the Gulf of Mexico for three months after the explosion; a total of 4.9 million barrels had spilled by the time the oil flow was capped.

Extensive efforts have been made in the aftermath of the oil spill to determine the cause of the explosion. The newest federal report states that BP is mostly to blame. Allegations in the report contend that BP made a series of critical errors in the days leading up to the explosion and subsequent spill. Evidently, BP violated seven federal regulations, which would have greatly increased the risk of a disaster on the rig. Violations include improper maintenance that would have maintained the well and kept it under control, failure to perform a cement job that would have kept gas and oil inside the well, and failure to properly maintain the blowout preventer.

Prior to this most recent report, other investigations into the BP disaster have blamed other factors that influenced the spill, including faulty equipment and mistakes made by executives and crew members. The federal report is groundbreaking because it lays most of the blame on BP. The report notes, however, that several other companies had a hand in the disaster, most notably the company Transocean, who owned the Deepwater Horizon rig.

As a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, oil slicks wreaked havoc on the delicate ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico. As of November 2010, 6,814 animals had lost their lives due to the oil spill. In addition to this tally, it is suspected that a group of 67 dolphins who were found dead were also killed as a result of the disaster. The spill has also affected eight national parks and has affected tourism in several states, costing the area millions of dollars in lost business. Fisheries have also been negatively affected due to the quality of the water in the aftermath of the spill.

The findings of the report draw attention to the fact that BP has yet to accept full responsibility for the massive oil spill that was caused by greed and carelessness. Offshore drilling is still a huge problem in the U.S., and something must be done about it before another disaster happens. To take action against the greedy tactics of big oil companies, start by signing this petition encouraging the government to seize BP’s assets. An even more effective tactic is to completely boycott BP by refusing to purchase gas from them. BP also owns Arco gas stations, AMPM convenience stores, and Castrol. Taking action against BP by boycotting their products is a small but effective step to cut down the company that is responsible for the deaths of thousands of animals and the destruction of their ecosystems.

Photo Credit: rst.gsfc.nasa.gov/Sect3/tsr-salazar-oil-spill-cnn-640×480.jpg

Paper Mill Blamed For Fish Kill Approved To Reopen

Nearly a month after being shut down due to a massive fish kill, some workers at a paper mill in Louisiana are finally able to return to work today. State officials have approved the reopening of Temple-Inland Inc.’s paper mill in Bogalusa, LA after the company assured authorities that they will strive to prevent similar incidents in the future.

To continue operations, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) ordered the paper mill to regularly perform rigorous sampling of treated wastewater at various locations, including wastewater at the mill’s discharge point and at locations upstream and downstream on the Pearl River. Also, the mill is required to report the results of the monitoring to several different agencies and local officials. DEQ’s Rodney Mallet says, “As long as they follow the plan, everything’s fine. We have people out there monitoring.”

After tests were conducted on discharged treated wastewater last Friday, DEQ officials declared no significant threats to fish and other animals in the river.

The fish kill that occurred on the Pearl River was largely blamed on the improper discharge of the so called “black liquor” compound. On August 13, the mill was shut down after the river became visibly black and a multitude of dead fish, shellfish, and turtles turned up. Witnesses say the discharge of black liquor was seen as far as 50 miles from the paper mill.

However, as early as August 9, there were already warning signs. Computers at the mill reported an exceeding overflow of black liquor into the Pearl River. Despite this, the mill continued to operate and dump substantial amounts of the compound into the river. The mill was shut down only after the DEQ received information on August 13 about hundreds of thousands of fish found dead on the Pearl River and sent scientists to investigate.

Some of the species that were affected are found almost exclusively in the Pearl River, such as the gulf sturgeon (a fish classified as a near threatened species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) and the ringed sawback turtle. Bass, catfish, flounder, and mussels were also among the animals killed.

Black liquor is a compound used to provide about two thirds of a paper mill’s energy needs. It is composed of water, organic substances from wood, and some chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide. The compound must be treated according to regulations before being discharged into a nearby waterway.

However, the DEQ stresses that the fish kill was not caused by toxic chemicals but by oxygen depletion. Despite its toxic content, the high concentration of untreated black liquor contained enough wood and organic content to deplete oxygen, which is what killed off fish, shellfish, and turtles in the river.

Despite this accident, Temple-Inland Inc. has been a leader in the industry for being environmentally responsible. Before becoming Temple-Inland Inc. in January 2008, Inland regularly complied with DEQ and EPA regulations and received awards, including numerous Sustainable Forestry Initiative certifications and the prestigious U.S. Department of Interior Conservation Service Award.

However, after January of 2008, management changed several things around the mill. For instance, the proper treatment of black liquor before it is safe to discharge into the Pearl River takes at least 21 days. Under the newer management, the treatment process was shortened to only one day.

Temple-Inland Inc. produces paper used for packaging and building materials and employs about 600 workers at the Bogalusa paper mill. Besides complying with environmental regulations, the company has received numerous awards for providing customers with quality services and products. Do it Best Corp. has named Temple-Inland Inc. “Vendor of the Year” several years in a row.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/macbeck/3982210565

New Index Tracks Voluntary Corporate Renewable Energy Usage

This week Vestas Wind Systems of London and Bloomberg New Energy Finance of New York City unveiled their joint project, the Corporate Renewable Energy Index (CREX).  The goal of the index is to clearly lat out what companies are using renewable energy, where that energy is coming from, and how much renewable energy they are utilizing compared to conventional energy.  The idea is that ultimately the availability of this newly quantified information will help corporations (and interested consumers) see where they fall in terms of being “green” and will encourage them to derive more of their energy needs from renewable sources.

The survey provides data for the years 2009 and 2010, and was conducted beginning in November 2010.  The preliminary results provided by the report will be continuously updated to track progress and maintain transparency.  Vestas Wind Systems and Bloomberg New Energy Finance see transparency as tantamount.  They believe that transparency will benefit consumers who wish to make informed and green purchasing decisions, corporations who need to know what industry leaders are doing, investors who want to analyze risk in a company’s energy management and supply, NGOs who need to assess corporate actions in order to affect change, and policy makers who must understand the implications of their decisions regarding energy policy.

Vestas Wind System and Bloomberg New Energy Finance began the study by sending out surveys to the 1,000 largest businesses in the world based on market capitalization.  Of those corporations, 176 firms completed the survey.  According to the report, the CREX “represents the most comprehensive snapshot to date of corporate voluntary renewable energy purchases… it is the largest and most global ever conducted to measure this corporate activity.  In 2010 two U.S. based corporations topped the list: Kohl’s Corporation and Whole Foods Market Incorporated.  Both procured more renewable energy than they actually consumed.  

Noteworthy findings of the study are as follows:

Purchasing of renewable energy is increasing, but renewable energy consumption still makes up only a small part of overall corporate energy consumption:

  • In 2009, renewable energy accounted for 8.2% of total energy used by the respondents of the survey.  That figure increased to 12.1% in 2010
  • 74% of companies surveyed reported that they used a higher percentage of renewable energy in 2010 compared to 2009.  
  • More than 40% of companies who answered the survey procure less than 5% of their energy from renewable sources.

Wind is the most prevalent source for renewable energy among large corporations:

  • While 30% of respondents were unaware of the source of their company’s renewable energy, wind was the most popular for those who did know the source.
  • Wind power accounted for 51% of the renewable energy used by these large corporations.  

European corporations tended to use more renewable energy than their American or Asian counterparts:

  • Of the 176 corporations that participated, 25 were based in Europe.  Those companies met 40% of their cumulative energy demands through the utilization of renewable energy sources.  American companies hovered around 22% and Japanese corporations averaged only 3%.

CREX respondents historically outperform their peers:

  • While the MSC World Index has fallen 12.6% over the last few years, CREX constituents have grown by 24.7%.  CREX corporations also outperform MSC World Index corporations on a ten year, five year, or one year period.  However, this is not an indication that using renewable energy causes companies to outperform the market.  In fact, it very well may be the other way around (companies that are performing well have the resources necessary to utilize renewable energy.

To read the full report, please click here.

Photo credit: blog.epa.gov/blog/2008/09/10/science-Wednesday-better-together-wind-and-solar-power-in-california/

BP Money: Where Was it Spent?

After the explosion at the BP oil rig that killed 11 workers and created one of the nation’s worst oil spills, the oil corporation was forced to open its pocketbooks and dole out millions of dollars in damages to the communities off the Gulf of Mexico in reparation for the damage done to their economies.  

Since then, the Associated Press has investigated to see how these funds have been spent.   

State and parish officials all along the coast have used significant amounts of BP’s money on gadgets and high tech gear, most of which had nothing to do with cleaning up the oil.  Among some of these purchases are laptops and new cars for employees.

Charlotte Randolph, president of Lafourche Parish, used BP money to buy an iPad, claiming she needed it in addition to her Blackberry to communicate with others during the oil crisis.  However, the iPad was not purchased until well over a month after the BP well had been capped and much of the oil had been cleaned up.

Mayor A.J. Holloway, who used to drive a  2006 GMC Yukon, now owns a BP paid, new black 2011 Chevy Tahoe 1500 LT that cost over $35,000.  A city spokesman said the new SUV was needed to travel to “countless meetings.”

According to BP PLC, they have paid state and local governments at least $754 million, and has paid the federal government almost $694 million.  The AP review has accounted for about $500 million of the expenditures, with some of the money not yet spent.  $400 million went directly to needs like covering overtime, boosting tourism, and cleaning the oil.  

Photo Credit: Shane Anderson sanctuaries.noaa.gov/pgallery/pgchannel/human/human_1.html

Environmental Group Blasts Nestlé Over Palm Oil

The world’s largest food and beverage company has run into difficult times, as environmentalists charge it with destroying rare wildlife habitat and rainforests that serve as carbon sinks.  Following publication of a report linking Nestlé’s use of the food ingredient palm oil to destruction of rainforests in Indonesia, more than 100,000 supporters of environmental group Greenpeace have emailed the company asking Nestlé to sever ties with palm oil suppliers that destroy rainforests.  Many of the same activists have also flooded Nestlé’s Facebook page with comments criticizing the use of palm oil.

[img_assist|nid=142174|title=|desc=|link=none|align=none|width=151|height=213]

The damning report, titled “Caught Red-Handed: How Nestlé’s Use of Palm Oil is Having a Devastating Impact on Rainforests, the Climate, and Orangutans,” was published by Greenpeace International on March 17th, 2010.  The report focuses on Nestlé’s sourcing of palm oil from Sinar Mas, the largest palm oil-producing company in Indonesia.  According to Greenpeace, Sinar Mas engages in agricultural practices that include clearing vast areas of rainforest, encroaching into orangutan habitat, and breaking Indonesian forestry law.  “Despite Sinar Mas’ track record and increasingly dirty reputation,” wrote Greenpeace in the report, “Nestlé has no policies in place to avoid dealings with the group and continues to buy palm oil from Sinar Mas.”

Following the release of the report, thousands of Greenpeace supporters logged onto Nestlé’s Facebook page to register their discontent.  Many web activists focused on the impact of palm oil plantations on the highly endangered orangutan, which has become the poster child for the disappearing rainforests of Southeast Asia.  “We all want your KitKats,” one activist wrote to Nestlé via Facebook, “but not how they’re served now.”

[img_assist|nid=142177|title=|desc=|link=none|align=none|width=391|height=242]

Palm Oil Plantation

In response to what has become a major public relations disaster for Nestlé, the company has announced it is cancelling its direct purchases from Sinar Mas, and that all its palm oil purchases will come from sustainable sources by 2015.  Yet Greenpeace maintains the 2015 date is not soon enough, and that Nestlé still buys from Sinar Mas indirectly through other companies like Cargill.  Meanwhile the Indonesian Palm Oil Growers Association is threatening a boycott of its own if Nestlé complies with the demands of Greenpeace. 

The Greenpeace-led campaign against Nestlé is in many ways just the latest manifestation of a growing concern among environmentalists that Indonesia’s rainforests are disappearing at breakneck speed – threatening to take hundreds of endangered species like the orangutan with them.  Large-scale deforestation in Indonesia largely began in the 1960s under the dictator Suharto.  Though Suharto resigned in 1998, the systematic corruption which characterized his 30-year regime continues to plague Indonesian government today and makes major reform difficult.  In recent years, the massive expansion of the palm oil industry in Indonesia has increased the rate of deforestation even more and inspired a wave of criticism from groups like Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network. 

A week after release of the report which triggered the online protests, the flood of messages on Nestlé’s Facebook page shows little sign of abating.  “A KitKat lasts seconds,” read one comment from Wednesday night.  “Extinction is forever.”  It’s not clear yet how Nestlé will respond to Greenpeace’s request that it cut ties with customers of Sinar Mas like Cargill.  But the next few weeks should continue to be very interesting for the iconic producer of the KitKat.

Photo Credit: Palm Oil Plantation