Exxon Pressures Government to Lift Restrictions on Oil Exports
It wasn’t long ago that the dirty energy industry and their friends in Congress and the media were screaming that we needed to open up every corner of America to oil and gas drilling in order to lower energy costs and help protect our country from oil-rich countries who don’t like the U.S.
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We were promised that increased domestic production would lower our fuel costs, strengthen our national security and help ensure our economic prosperity. And even after the Obama Administration agreed to open up even more federal lands to drilling, the American public has yet to see any of these benefits materialize.
But the oil industry isn’t complaining. They’ve been given everything that they asked for over the last few years, and while we’re still paying, on average, $3.22 a gallon at the pump, the industry is pulling in profits of $375 million a day between the top five companies.
You would think that Big Oil would have little to complain about at this point, but you’d be wrong. Apparently, they feel like their record profits should be even higher, so they’ve now decided that it's time to ease restrictions on oil exports so they can go take advantage of more lucrative overseas markets. Here at home, however, expect your pain at the pump to continue. You're not their priority, despite the fancy advertising.
ExxonMobil, the most profitable oil company in America, has called on the federal government to ease the rules regarding how much domestically-produced oil can be shipped out of the U.S. They are backed in this call by their friends in the conservative media, including the Wall Street Journal.
To reiterate, they want to take the oil that we finally agreed to let them "drill, baby drill" out of our national parks and public lands—the oil that was supposed to lower our prices to take the burden off of U.S. families, but never did—and ship it to markets that are paying more for oil. Why? So they can make profits that make $375 million per day look like minimum wage by comparison.
The economics behind the price of oil that a country will pay are incredibly complicated and difficult to understand. As we’ve stated before, the price of a barrel of oil is set on the international market, meaning most countries are going to pay the same amount for the same product.
But that really only tells half the story of oil prices, and it only accounts for the crude that is pulled from the ground, not the final refined product that is typically shipped to importing countries who lack refining capabilities.
The U.S. is a great example. Even though most Americans think they pay exorbitant prices at the pump, we are not bent completely “over the barrel” on the price of oil. U.S. gasoline prices are still among the lowest in the world, and part of that is because we have the refining capacity to import crude oil, and our abundant ports make that a fairly easy task.
When crude oil is sold to a country that doesn't have its own supplies, the oil industry is able to jack up the price for transport. Additionally, if the country buying the supply does not have the capacity to refine crude oil itself, the company will gladly provide that service for an additional hefty charge.
These factors are what Exxon is hoping to take advantage of in this push to gain approval from Congress to sell more American oil abroad.
But we have advantages that other countries do not—lots of ports and refining capacity, often taxpayer subsidized to boot.
We also have another advantage, one critically important in determining the price of oil and gas—the U.S. dollar still has quite a bit of buying power. Last week, the price of a barrel of oil from OPEC finished at about $106. That $106 figure means different things to different countries. For a country whose currency is in a weakened state, that $106 figure is a lot more expensive than it is for a country that is a global leader in currency exchange.
This means that if an oil company keeps their money in the area where the oil is sold, they will technically have a larger cash reserve. If they bring it back into the U.S., the exchange rates would yield a lower amount in their home currency. As a result, they would likely keep their money offshore, waiting for their foreign currency holdings to rise, which would then be exchanged for a larger amount in U.S. currency.
There are also other factors including federal taxes, but those are less important here, as they are not given as profits back to the industry.
All those financial incentives to industry help mask the real issue, which is the increased global dependence on fossil fuels. Rather than investing in alternative, clean, renewable sources of energy in other areas of the world, Exxon wants to feed everyone their oil. And the increased shipping would cause even more fossil fuels to be burned, creating an environmentally toxic cycle of fossil fuel dependency.
The bottom line is that Americans were sold the idea of the need for increased domestic oil production because it would lower our costs at home. That never happened. And now that ExxonMobil has the keys to our national oil treasure, they are begging for the chance to sell it to export markets that will yield them a higher profit.
The leaders of both major political parties in the U.S. support increased oil drilling, which only serves to benefit the interests of the dirty energy industry. In fact, during a debate from last year's presidential election, President Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney got into a heated debate about whose policies would lead to even more drilling:
And who could forget this gem from former Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, complete with the real facts about domestic oil drilling:
Lowering the price at the pump for American consumers was never the goal of oil companies like ExxonMobil. It never will be, either.
Oil industry fat cats are focused on their own retirement plans, not yours. And they’re doing a great job of sewing those golden parachutes for themselves at our expense.
We should probably not hasten their success by letting more American oil go to the highest bidder. After all, wasn't this supposed to be about securing our families' energy future?
Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY page for more related news on this topic.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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