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By Andy Rowell
These are dangerous days for the climate. Not only do we have a climate denier in the White House, we have one in the Kremlin, too.
At the end of last week, while visiting the Arctic, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that global warming was not caused by humans: "The warming, it had already started by the 1930s," he said. "That's when there were no such anthropological factors such as emissions, and the warming had already started."
By Steve Horn
At his Feb. 16 press conference, President Trump discussed his executive orders calling for U.S. federal agencies to grant TransCanada and Energy Transfer Partners the permits needed to build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects.
Trump also cited a different executive order signed that same day, highlighting the "Buy American measures" which he said were "in place to require American steel for American pipelines." But like Keystone XL, as DeSmog previously reported, much of the steel for the Dakota Access project appears to have been manufactured in Canada by Evraz North America, a subsidiary of the Russian steel giant Evraz.
Evraz is owned in part by Roman Abramovich, a Russian multi-billionaire credited for bringing Russian President Vladimir Putin into office in the late 1990s. DeSmog's finding comes on the heels of Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn resigning for potentially having discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Russian diplomats before Trump took office, apparently without the knowledge of Trump or now-Vice President Mike Pence.
Who Makes the Pipes?
In his statement on using American steel for U.S. pipelines made at the press conference, Trump said "nobody ever asked before I came along."
Trump repeated the steel production talking point at his first campaign rally for the 2020 presidential cycle, made less than a month into his presidency, on Feb. 18 in Melbourne, Florida.
"And very importantly, as I was about to sign it, I said who makes the pipe? Who makes the pipe? … Simple question," he said. "The lawyers put this very complex document in front. I said, who makes the pipe? They said, sir, it can be made anywhere. I said not anymore. I put a little clause in the bottom. The pipe has to be made in the United States of America if we're going to have pipeline."
Lisa Dillinger, who does media relations for Dakota Access, LLC, told DeSmog that 57 percent of the pipeline was manufactured in the U.S. by both Stupp Corporation in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Welspun in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The remaining pipe, Dillinger said, was manufactured in Canada, though she did not comment on which Canadian company manufactured the steel.
"Additionally, the majority of the remaining major materials were purchased, manufactured or assembled in the United States contributing nearly $1 billion in direct spending to the U.S. economy," Dillinger said.
Made in Canada
In March 2015, the Dakota Free Press published photos of a line pipe storage site located in Brown County, South Dakota. One of those photos shows pipelines labeled "Made in Canada."
Another photo published that same month by John Davis of the Aberdeen American News also shows the pipes were labeled "Made in Canada." As Evraz North America points out on its website, it serves as the "only supplier of fully 'Made in Canada' [large diamater] pipe."
"Evraz pioneered large diameter line pipe in North America and today we are its largest producer," the company says on another section of its website. "In fact, we are the only producer in North America that can manufacture [large diameter] pipe that is 100% 'Made in Canada.'"
Four months later in July 2015, Dakota Free Press published an image of an auction announcement from Aberdeen American News showing that 30 miles of line pipe in Brown County was up for auction. The occupant listed: Evraz North America. It also listed Dakota Access LLC as an interest holder.
Aberdeen American News
"The pipeline came by train to Brown County in preparation for construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline, planned to carry Bakken oil across South Dakota to Illinois for refining," wrote Cory Heidelberger of the Dakota Free Press. "Those 2,000 links would equal more than 130 train car loads; my eyeball-recollection of the trains rumbling through Aberdeen last March suggests that 2,000 links are only a fraction of the stockpile."
Indeed, that would only be a small fraction. According to a project announcement located by Desmog, Evraz and ETCIntrastate Procurement—the latter a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Partners—gave a contract to Dun Transportation & Stringing Inc. to offload and stockpile "61 miles of 30-in. pipe in Lincoln County, South Dakota" in February 2015. Dakota Access is a 30-inch diameter pipeline and runs through Lincoln County.
Dun, for what it's worth, also lists unloading, hauling and racking 185 miles of Evraz and Welspun steel in North and South Dakota for Dakota Access as one of its projects on its website.
Representatives for Dun did not respond to a request for comment submitted for this story. Evraz did not comment on how much steel it made for Dakota Access, referring DeSmog to its Jan. 24 press release touting Trump's executive orders.
"To the best of our information, Evraz North America is 'the only supplier of fully 'Made in Canada' [large diameter] pipe,' as is stated on our website," Christian Messmacher, vice president of Investor Relations and Strategy for Evraz North America, told DeSmog.
Similar to Keystone XL, the steel production for the Dakota Access pipeline was a done deal long ago, well before the pipeline got all the permits it needed.
"Energy Transfer Partners was so eager to build the pipeline that it began staging mountainous piles of steel pipe across the four-state route before it had gotten all necessary easements and regulatory approval from federal regulators, as well as those in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois," a local Fox affiliate explained.
In the case of Dakota Access, nearly all of the pipeline already sits underground, other than the most contentious segment, which could soon go under Lake Oahe and the Missouri River located near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's land in North Dakota. That segment consists of 0.02 percent of the line, according to Energy Transfer Partners.
Though many in leaders of the U.S. labor movement, including professional pipeliners, have praised Trump's jobs initiatives, some within labor aren't as elated and are more critical of Trump's claims about creating U.S. steel jobs.
"American workers need jobs," Jeremy Brecher, co-founder of the Labor Network for Sustainability, told DeSmog. "It is unconscionable that fossil fuel companies and Donald Trump exploit that need by making phony claims to be creating jobs—all to persuade us to support projects that will poison our air and water and make our planet unlivable for our kids. It's time to get serious about creating jobs that protect our environment rather than destroying it."
Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Steve Horn and Itai Vardi
Believe it or not, there's a key connection to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, in the fight over North America's controversial Keystone XL pipeline.
One of President Donald Trump's first actions in office was to sign an executive order on Jan. 24 expediting the approval of the Keystone XL. Owned by TransCanada, this tar sands oil pipeline was halted by former President Barack Obama in November 2015. Trump signed another order on Jan. 24, calling for steel for U.S. pipelines to be made in the U.S. to the "maximum extent possible" and two days later TransCanada filed a new presidential permit application for Keystone XL with the U.S. Department of State.
Critics, such as John Kemp of Reuters, pounced on the caveat language in Trump's steel order and noted that it appears "designed to preserve lots of wiggle-room." In fact, a DeSmog investigation reveals that much of the steel for Keystone XL has already been manufactured and is sitting in a field in rural North Dakota.
DeSmog has uncovered that 40 percent of the steel created so far was manufactured in Canada by a subsidiary of Evraz, a company partly owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who is a close ally of Putin and a Trump family friend. Evraz has also actively lobbied against provisions which would mandate that Keystone XL's steel be made in the U.S.
Abramovich is described in the 2004 book Abramovich: The Billionaire from Nowhere by British journalists Dominic Midgley and Chris Hutchins as "one of the prime movers behind the establishment of the only political party that was prepared to offer its undiluted support to Putin when he fought his first presidential election in late 1999. When Putin needed a shadowy force to act against his enemies behind the scenes, it was Abramovich whom he could rely on to prove a willing co-conspirator."
Evraz describes itself as "among the top steel producers in the world based on crude steel production of 14.3 million tonnes in 2015."
DeSmog's findings comes as Trump is under scrutiny from Congress, U.S. intelligence agencies and others for his personal and presidential campaign team's ties to Russia. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded in January that Russian state-sponsored actors had hacked into the email databases of both the Democratic National Committee and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's campaign in order to influence the election in favor of Trump.
Meet Roman Abramovich
After helping launch Putin's presidency in Russia, Abramovich also was instrumental in the vetting and picking of Putin's cabinet, according to Midgley and Hutchins in their book. They also reveal that Abramovich was instrumental in the creation of Putin's political party, Unity.
Abramovich bought a 41 percent stake in the steel producer Evraz in 2006. Prior to that, he owned a 72 percent stake in the Russian state-owned oil company Sibneft, which was eventually purchased for $13 billion by the state-owned company Gazprom and became known as Gazprom Neft.
Before this, however, Sibneft merged in 2003 with the company Yukos, then owned by Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, in an attempt to create what was envisioned as a competitor to the likes of ExxonMobil. Had it materialized, the resulting company, called Yukos-Sibneft, would have been at that point the fourth largest oil producer in the world.
Under pressure from Putin, however, and with what was reported as the helping hand of Abramovich, the deal was called off and Khodorkovsky ended up arrested and then jailed for eight years for alleged tax evasion and fraud. Abramovich's personal wealth doubled as a result of the later Sibneft-Gazprom merger.
The Telegraph reported that Abramovich met with Putin before the Yukos-Sibneft deal was tossed to the curb.
"The revelation of the meeting will fuel suggestions that the Kremlin is closely involved with the fate of the two companies," The Telegraph wrote at the time. "Many industry commentators saw [the] decision to halt the merger as a government-backed effort to further weaken Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former chief executive of Yukos and its largest shareholder."
Abramovich's influence would continue in the years ahead. The 2010 book The Crisis of Russian Democracy: The Dual State, Factionalism and the Medvedev Succession, written by Richard Sakwa, further describes Abramovich as someone "whose wealth in the Putin years increased at least tenfold and he remained one of Putin's closest confidants" while Putin carried out his first term as president.
President-elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of a new global arms race on Thursday, after he suggested on Twitter he would increase the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Trump's tweet read, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes."
Trump's tweet came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needed to "strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces." This morning, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski said Trump told her today, "Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all."
Here's the transcript of the interview:
Juan González: President-elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of a new global arms race on Thursday, after he suggested on Twitter that he would increase the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Trump's tweet read, quote, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." Trump's tweet came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needed to, quote, "strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces." According to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, about 93 percent of all nuclear warheads are already owned by Russia and the United States, which together have about 14,000 warheads stockpiled.
Amy Goodman: This morning, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski said she spoke briefly to the president-elect on the phone during a commercial break and asked him about his nuclear weapons comments. Brzezinski recounted Trump's response during a conversation with her co-host, Joe Scarborough.
Joe Scarborough: Mika asked the president-elect, while we had the opportunity, what his position was on—trying to clarify the tweet yesterday regarding the nuclear arsenal. And the president-elect told you what?
Mika BrzezinskiI: Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass.
Joe Scarborough: And outlast them all.
Mika Brzezinski: And outlast them all.
Amy Goodman: And, yes, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were sitting in their pajamas in front of a fire as they spoke. They had just spoken with Sean Spicer, Trump's spokesperson. And when Trump called him on the phone at break, that's when he spoke to Mika Brzezinski on the phone. And she relayed that conversation after.
Joining us now is Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA. A new nuclear arms race, Annie? Can you talk about the significance of this?
Annie Leonard: You know, Amy, it is absolutely frightening. Every day, Trump says something that makes us worried, but this may be the most terrifying yet. A nuclear arms race is the last thing that the world needs. I think about climate change. I think about economic inequality. I think about all of these major threats that we're facing as a country and as a world. Why would we add on top of that a totally manufactured, unnecessary threat? We already have so many nuclear weapons. We have over 7,000 nuclear weapons in the United States. We're the biggest military spender in the world. A new nuclear arms race is the last thing the world needs. It's the last thing our country needs.
And it also demonstrates to me both a complete irresponsibility on Trump's part and that he seems to be forgetting his campaign promises. During his campaign, he talked about bringing back jobs. He talked about economic security. The way that you bring back jobs and promote economic security is investing the trillions and trillions of dollars now being wasted on nuclear energy into a clean energy economy. That is how you get real security, not by wasting trillions of dollars on more nuclear weapons, that is just going to increase insecurity and fear in our country and globally.
Juan González: And, Annie Leonard, this situation, where both the president-elect of the United States and the president of Russia, on the same—basically, within the same 24-hour period, are remarking about their nuclear arsenals?
Annie Leonard: You know, it is absolutely terrifying. I mean, this is not a reality game show. This is really a life-or-death situation. When Trump talks about making things great again or he wants to bring back the old-fashioned days, I think about when I was a kid in high school, and I would lie in bed at night absolutely terrified about the nuclear arms race. It was just something that we were all—it was drilled into our heads, this imminent threat. And I look at my high school kid. She lies in bed at night scared about climate change, scared about the state of the economy. Am I going to rewind things and then add the nuclear arms race onto the young people's list of concerns today? I mean, it's so frightening, it's just surreal.
Amy Goodman: I wanted to go back to something we played in the headlines, which is the issue of the continuum from President Obama to President Trump. Despite Obama's call for an end to nuclear weapons, his administration has been quietly upgrading the nuclear arsenal as part of a massive effort that will cost up to one, I believe, trillion dollars over three decades. And this is something that Kellyanne Conway raised on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday, the former campaign manager who has just been named as part of the communications team [sic] of President Trump. Let's go to that comment of Kellyanne Conway pointing to President Obama's nuclear plans.
Kellyanne Conway: I don't think the tweet was groundbreaking in this regard. It seems that President Obama himself has invested––has called for an upgrade in our capabilities. I've read in one or two articles, up to $1 trillion is the price tag. So, we all—you know, President Obama, President-elect Trump—everyone shares the same, I think, core value, and their first duty is to try to keep us all safe. And we know it's a dangerous world, and that includes nuclear weapons.
Amy Goodman: So, there you have Kellyanne Conway defending Trump, saying he's not changing things that much. We have done many shows on Obama's trillion-dollar nuclear plan. What about this, Annie Leonard?
Annie Leonard: Well, just because one president made a mistake certainly doesn't give license to another president to make this mistake. Greenpeace and many of our allies, we fought against President Obama's military spending, and we will fight against President Trump's military spending.
Amy Goodman: And I just want to correct: Kellyanne Conway has been named counselor to the president.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Democracy Now!.
By Andy Rowell
Later today, the 538 members of the Electoral College will meet to determine who will be the next President of the U.S.
Normally these meetings are a formality, with electors reflecting the vote results from their states, but there is growing sense that some electors might defy their party and vote against Donald Trump.
At least one elector has publicly said he will not vote for Trump as he refuses to vote for "someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office … Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief."
This lack of foreign policy experience has been reflected in Trump's disastrous pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, the current boss of oil giant Exxon, which has caused outrage from many quarters and is now the subject of satirists, cartoonists and fodder for the sketch writers at Saturday Night Live.
Apart from Exxon being the subject to a criminal investigation into lying about climate change, there are many other accusations of ill-practice against the company including its "long history of questionable deals with oil-rich countries around the world" and the fact it has "consistently tried to undermine global efforts aimed at reducing corruption in the extractives sector," according to Global Witness.
One of the main problems for Trump is Tillerson's close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which raises huge conflicts of interest. The issue has been raised by both sides of the house in the U.S. as well as the company's critics, since Tillerson was nominated.
As my colleague Lorne Stockman wrote, "There's no doubt that Rex Tillerson and Exxon's executives and shareholders will profit from his nomination to Secretary of State. The only question is by how much."
Tillerson owns Exxon stock worth $200 million. So even after leaving the company, what is good for Exxon will be good for Tillerson and one of those will be getting sanctions lifted in Russia, allowing Exxon back into the Russian Arctic. And even if Tillerson divests that stock, his lifetime of allegiance to Exxon and the oil industry will be hard to break.
This is a man who has oil in his veins.
Many have criticized his appointment, with Steve Kretzmann from OCI arguing that "The nomination of Rex Tillerson has revealed with startling clarity that our government is being set up to support the interests of Big Oil and Putin, not the American people or the planet."
Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists added: "You wouldn't hire the CEO of a tobacco company to serve as surgeon general. So why would you pick the leader of an oil and gas corporation to spearhead a position tasked with national security and global climate action?"
And now further questions are being asked over Tillerson's links with the Russians.
Documents leaked over the weekend, reveal that Tillerson was a long-term director of a U.S.-Russian oil firm based in the tax haven of the Bahamas.
Tillerson became a director of the oil company's Russian subsidiary, Exxon Neftegas, in 1998. He was a director for just under a decade, according to Exxon.
As the Guardian reported: "Though there is nothing untoward about this directorship, it has not been reported before and is likely to raise fresh questions over Tillerson's relationship with Russia ahead of a potentially stormy confirmation hearing by the U.S. senate foreign relations committee."
The documents from the Bahamas reveal that Exxon registered at least 67 companies in the secretive tax haven. And they add to the evidence that Tillerson's Russian links are deeper than we thought, and a real cause for concern.
Last night, Vladimir Putin visited Donald Trump—played by Alec Baldwin—at Trump Tower during the opening skit on Saturday Night Live. While Trump and Putin where discussing whether it's a good idea for the two of them to be seen together, SNL's Kate McKinnon as Kellyanne Conway announces that Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, Trump's pick for Secretary of State, is there to see him.
Once Tillerson sees that Putin is in Trump's apartment, he becomes elated to see his old-time friend.
Watch here to see what happens when Tillerson and Putin get down to business: