Some 200 indigenous Mapuche blocked the entrance to a facility of Argentina's state-controlled Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) oil company on Aug. 31 in the Vaca Muerta region in the southwestern province of Neuquén to protest the burning of five of their buildings. The residents blamed YPF security guards for the fires, which destroyed four homes and the meeting place for their community, Campo Maripe, on Aug. 30 and in the early morning of Aug. 31. The company denies responsibility, but Mapuche spokespeople noted that there is security at the YPF site, provided by the Neuquén provincial government, and that YPF is building a separating plant just 100 meters from the first of the houses to be set on fire. They asked how it was possible "that a building could be set on fire just hundreds of meters from the oil wells and derricks and no one observed anything."
On Aug. 12 Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto formally announced his plan for transforming the country's nationalized energy sector by opening up the giant oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) to shared risk contracts with Mexican and foreign private companies and by allowing private companies to generate electricity for the Federal Energy Commission (CFE). Mexico is currently the world's largest oil producer, with about 2.5 million barrels pumped each day, but Peña Nieto said his "energy reform" would raise oil production to 3 million barrels a day in 2018 and 3.5 million 2025 and natural gas production from 1.7 million cubic feet now to 8 million cubic feet in 2015. The reform, which would require changes to articles 27 and 28 of the Constitution, is supported by the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and Peña's centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI); the votes from the two parties should be enough to get the legislation through the Congress.
In a press conference on July 11 representatives of Argentina's indigenous Mapuche and of indigenous communities in the Vaca Muerta region in the southwestern province of Neuquén announced plans to block the California-based Chevron Corporation from drilling for natural gas in their territories. In December 2012 Argentina's state-controlled Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales (YPF) oil company signed an agreement for a $1 billion hydrofracking pilot project in the Vaca Muerta area, despite a November decision by an Argentine judge to embargo Chevron's assets in Argentina because of a $19 billion judgment against the company in Ecuador for environmental damage and injuries to the health of indigenous residents in the Amazon rainforest. YPF and Chevron are scheduled to sign an additional accord on July 15; the oil companies deny that the drilling will be on Mapuche lands.
Suncor Energy is one of Canada's top tar-sands oil producers and a big pusher for the Keystone XL Pipeline (see Globe & Mail, Oct. 25, 2011). They are, of course, key players in the continental NAFTA shadow government. So why are we reading about their contamination of the Athabasca River in the Edmonton Journal (March 26) and not the New York goddam Times? Just asking.
Tainted water poured for hours before broken Suncor pipe sealed
EDMONTON — A waste-water pipe at Suncor’s oilsands plant leaked into a pond of treated water Monday, and the resulting diluted water flowed into the Athabasca River, a company official said Tuesday.
Remember the incessant squawking a few years back, when oil prices were spiralling, about how we were approaching "peak oil"? Been mighty quiet from that set recently, hasn't it? Vince Beiser explains why in a piece called "The Deluge" in the Pacifc Standard, March 4:
The widely circulated fears of a few years ago that we were approaching "peak oil" have turned out to be completely wrong. From the Arctic to Africa, nanoengineered materials, underwater robots, side-scanning 3-D sonar, specially engineered lubricants, and myriad other advances are opening up titanic new supplies of fossil fuels, many of them in unexpected places—Brazil, Australia, and, perhaps most significantly, North America. "Contrary to what most people believe," declares a recent study from the Harvard Kennedy School, "oil supply capacity is growing worldwide at such an unprecedented level that it might outpace consumption."
More than 100 protesters stormed the lobby of TransCanada's Keystone XL office in Houston the morning of Jan. 7, dancing, releasing a cascade of black balloons to represent tar sands oil, and hanging neon orange hazard tape. After being forced out of the lobby by police, the protesters gathered on the sidewalk and performed street theatre in which a "pipe dragon" puppet destroyed homes and poisoned water until being slain by knights representing the grassroots coalition of the Tar Sands Blockade, Idle No More, Earth First and others. The protest was the first held in Houston to oppose the pipeline project, which follows a campaign of tree-sits to actually block pipeline construction in rural areas of Texas. "From the Texas backwoods to the corporate boardrooms, the fight to defend our homes from toxic tar sands will not be ignored," said Ramsey Sprague, a Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson. "We're here today to directly confront the TransCanada executives who’re continuing on with business as usual while making our communities sacrifice zones." (Your Houston News, Jan. 7)
Minera Argenta, the Argentine subsidiary of the Vancouver-based mining company Pan American Silver Corp., announced on Dec. 21 that it was suspending its Navidad silver mining project in the southern province of Chubut and would close its offices in Puerto Madryn and Trelew. The principal reason for the suspension was the failure of the province's governor, Martín Buzzi, to get the legislature to back his plan to circumvent Law 5001, which bans open-pit mines and the use of cyanide in mining operations in Chubut. Residents of the province had organized popular assemblies to oppose Buzzi's plan; dozens of mining opponents were injured when construction workers attacked them in Rawson, the province's administrative capital, on Nov. 27.
The US National Intelligence Council (NIC) has issued a new report, "Global Trends 2030: Potential Worlds," that emphasizes the rise of China and the risk of catastrophic climate change. An Associated Press summary Dec. 10 says the report finds global terrorism will recede along with the US military footprint in Iraq and Afghanistan, but cyber-attacks will be a growing concern. "The spectacular rise of Asian economies is dramatically altering...US influence," said NIC chairman Christopher Kojm. While the report sees the potential for US-China cooperation on global security, it also warns of resource struggles leading to instability. Under the heading "Stalled Engines," in the "most plausible worst-case scenario, the risks of interstate conflict increase," the report said. "The US draws inward and globalization stalls." The section "Black Swans" foresees extraordinary events that can change the course of history—such as a severe pandemic that could kill millions in a matter of months, or more rapid climate change. The report is optimistic, however, on the prospects for US energy independence. "With shale gas, the US will have sufficient natural gas to meet domestic needs and generate potential global exports for decades to come," it predicts.