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This Week in Energy - Billionaires Secretly Funding Climate Denial Think Tanks

The shocking news this week (at least to the Guardian) is that secret funding helped build a vast network of climate denial think tanks.

The Guardian reports that “conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120 million to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change.”

The key objective: to “redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing ‘wedge issue’ for hardcore conservatives.”

Various media outlets have been discussing this for some time, and certainly no one is surprised. But the Guardian article paints this in a different light. It’s not talking about the obvious “visible” funding for anti-climate change camps provided by the Koch brothers or the oil industry in general. This is apparently a new tunnel of funding and an additional $120 million that has remained secret until now. These funds, says the Guardian, were routed through the Donors Trust and the Donors Capital Fund out of the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. The express purpose of these trusts was to ensure that donors’ money would never be used for “liberal” causes.

And there is another big money issue that has raised a new debate: Obama’s proposal to fund clean-energy research with fees paid by oil and gas producers. The point of Obama’s “Energy Security Trust” may seem cynical to some as it essentially means a lot of drilling today for a cleaner energy future tomorrow. The main idea—announced in the State of the Union address—is to use $200 million in royalties from drilling on federal land to pay for renewable energy development. Over 10 years, this Energy Security Trust would spend $2 billion. The oil and gas industry can’t really complain—it’s a sign that more federal lands will become available, and fast, for drilling. Clean energy advocates also seem to find the plan logical. It’s not a novel idea, actually. Republicans have pursued it before. Congress is likely to agree.

This week also saw the second company convicted of crimes stemming from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Swiss drilling contractor Transocean entered a guilty plea on Thursday before a US district court in New Orleans. The company pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of violating the Clean Water Act for negligently discharging oil into the Gulf. The negotiated settlement includes a $400 million penalty and five years of probation. Transocean also agree to pay a $1 billion civil penalty. Transocean was not facing charges related to the death of 11 workers killed in the Deepwater Horizon accident. Earlier this month, BP Plc, the prime operator involved in the oil spill, pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges, including manslaughter. BP will pay a $4 billion fine and serve five years on probation. It will also pay a separate $525 million fine related to securities violations. The civil trial for the oil spill will begin on 25 February.

In Syria, rebel forces claimed on Thursday to have captured the town of Shadadah in the Hasaka province and to have taken control of a nearby oil field. This offensive was allegedly conducted with heavy reliance on the Nusra Front, which is a Salafi-Jihadist group supported by Qatar. Rebel forces are moving closer to Aleppo, where they are intent on taking control of the airport and cutting off Assad’s supply chain that runs from Aleppo to Damascus and then in a triangle towards the coast, with Lebanon’s borders nestled dangerously in between. Rebel forces have been trying to capture the Aleppo airport for nearly a month but are out-gunned by regime warplanes.

This week we also had a chance to speak with the CEO of Canada’s Aroway Energy (ARW), Chris Cooper, who offers a different take on the global game for junior oil and gas companies.  At a time when juniors are risking a lot in volatile venues in the Middle East and Africa, Aroway is planting its feet firmly in homeland soil and in conventional plays. For the smaller juniors, Cooper says this is not a long-term game, and blowing all you’re capital to drill a single unconventional well in a risky frontier won’t pay off. He says Canada still has plenty to offer juniors, and the end game is after all merger and acquisition.

Today’s special report is taken from the Opportunities section of Premium and takes a look at the various opportunities in water tech. You can see the full report below.

Finally, if you haven’t had a chance to check out our Premium Newsletter offerings, this is the week to do so. Dan Dicker, trader extraordinaire, gives us some exclusive tips on two hot stocks that are a must-buy for investors. It comes out this weekend, be sure not to miss it.

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