Back in the day, the fossil fuel industry could expect virtually uniform support from the U.S. business community, but those days are long gone. In a particularly dramatic example of the new order, Tom Steyer, billionaire and founder of the investment group Farallon Capital Management, LLC, has just announced a television ad buy of $1 million through his NextGen Climate Action organization. The series of four ads will tackle the debate over the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline head on, by demonstrating how little the U.S. public stands to benefit from this high stakes project.
Who profits from the Keystone XL Pipeline?
All four ads are targeted to the Sunday morning political talk show circuit under the heading “Bringing Down TransCanada’s House of Cards: The Keystone Chronicles.”
“Who Profits From Keystone XL?” is the title of the first ad, which aired last Sunday. It focuses on the pipeline’s purpose as a conduit from Canadian tar sands oil fields to U.S. ports, bypassing U.S. consumers in favor of the global petroleum market.
To bolster its case that the pipeline will not benefit the U.S. public, the ad cites Keystone owner TransCanada, which submitted testimony to Congress that confirmed its lack of commitment to the domestic U.S. petroleum market.
In its closing argument, the ad also hints at the content of the next installment in the series. Evidently the upcoming ad will demonstrate the risks that communities in the pipeline’s path would be exposed to from a tar sands oil pipeline spill, by paying a visit to Mayflower, Arkansas.
That community is still reeling from the effects of the ExxonMobil Pegasus Pipeline break last spring, which spilled dilbit (a diluted form of tar sands oil) into a residential area and a recreational lake.
Another fairly recent example that could appear in the ad series is the Enbridge dilbit spill of 2010, which polluted 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. According to the latest EPA report, after three years of remediation, significant amounts of dilbit remain embedded in the sediment, and the cleanup will last indefinitely.
In addition to the immediate impacts of that spill, a new lawsuit against Enbridge by a local business demonstrates that the cleanup operation itself can result in additional problems for the affected communities.
More green business, less support for fossil fuels
The new lawsuit, which was brought by a local brewery concerned about the construction of an onshore dredging pad near its premises, hints at the kind of support that Steyer’s anti-Keystone campaign could garner from the U.S. business community.
Aside from the proposed Keystone pipeline, the booming export market for U.S. fossil fuels has engendered an explosion of growth in the nation’s fuel transportation and storage network, and that in turn is affecting U.S. breweries, wineries and other beverage companies that have a critical interest in protecting water and agricultural resources.
One example of that general trend comes from upstate New York, where the local wine industry is up in arms over a proposal to expand natural gas storage facilities in the region.
The beverage industry is just one example of business pushback against new fossil fuel projects. Other obvious examples that come to mind are agriculture, tourism, and recreation. That’s on top of an interest by major retailers like IKEA and Walmart in transitioning to clean energy, making them less likely to go out on a limb in support of controversial fossil fuel projects.
The U.S. tech and automotive sectors, represented by major global firms like GM and GE, are also transitioning to a green business model that relies on the more diverse and sustainable alternative fuel market, to say nothing of a parallel transition to alternative energy by the U.S Department of Defense.
What this all means is that as the U.S. fossil fuel industry relies increasingly on the export market, it will become increasingly vulnerable to attacks from other sectors.
Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Action ad campaign could be just the beginning, and we’ll be interested to see if other business-backed organizations start taking off the gloves.
[Image (cropped): Keystone pipeline by shannonpatrick17]