Pipeline foes funded by Putin’s pals

By |2015-05-26T08:19:28+00:00May 20th, 2015|Op-Ed Articles|29 Comments

What happens when protesters learn they’re being used by billionaires? They dig in their ideological heels and shout insults.

As hydraulic fracturing and Canadian oil sands development sent North American petroleum production soaring, new pipelines were approved and constructed, including the Keystone system’s first three phases. They augmented 2.5 million miles of liquid petroleum, gas transmission and gas distribution pipelines that already crisscross the U.S.

But when the Keystone XL segment was proposed, intense opposition suddenly materialized. Protesters railed that habitat disturbance, potential leaks, climate change and ending fossil-fuel use necessitated “no more pipelines.”

Now the Sandpiper Pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken shale region across Minnesota to Superior, Wis., is meeting similar resistance. As with Keystone, the protesters say they’re concerned student, hiker and Native American grass-roots activists. The facts do not support their narrative.

Putin-allied Russian billionaires laundered $23 million through the Bermuda-based Wakefield Quin law firm to the Sea Change Foundation and thence to anti-fracking and anti-Keystone groups, the Environmental Policy Alliance found. Sandpiper opponents are likewise funded and coordinated by wealthy financiers and shadowy foundations, researcher Ron Arnold discovered.

Several small groups are involved in Sandpiper. But the campaign is coordinated by Honor the Earth, a Native American group that is actually a Tides Foundation “project,” with the Tides Center as its “fiscal sponsor,” contributing $700,000 and extensive in-kind aid. Out-of-state donors provide 99% of Honor’s funding.

The Indigenous Environmental Network also funds Honor the Earth. Minnesota corporate records show no incorporation entry for IEN, and that 95% of its money comes from outside Minnesota. Tides gave IEN $670,000 to oppose pipelines. Indeed, $25 billion in foundation investment portfolios support the anti-Sandpiper effort. Vastly more backing makes the $13-billion-per-year U.S. environmentalist movement a power to be reckoned with, Arnold and I document in our book, “Cracking Big Green.”

These tax-exempt foundations do not sicrackingmply give money to pressure groups. They tell them what campaigns to conduct, what tactics to use. Meanwhile, donors enjoy deductions for “charitable giving” to “education, conservation and other social change” programs.

Tides Foundation combined cash flows exceed $200 million a year, Canadian investigative journalist Cory Morningstar reports. She and fellow sleuth Vivian Krause have delved deeply into troubling arrangements among Big Green, Big Government and Big Finance.

Morningstar calls the San Francisco-based Tides operation “a priceless, magical, money funneling machine of epic proportions.” It enables uber-rich donors to distribute funds to specific organizations and campaigns of their choice, without disclosing their identities.

Even more interesting, among Tides’ biggest donors is Obama friend and advisor Warren Buffett. Beginning in 2004, Buffett funneled $30.5 million through his family’s NoVo Foundation to Tides, and ultimately to selected pressure groups that led campaigns against Keystone and other projects, Morningstar and Arnold discovered.

By donating the market value of greatly appreciated Berkshire Hathaway shares to NoVo, the Omaha billionaire avoided income taxes on his gains. Even more important, while public, media and political attention was riveted on Keystone, Berkshire Hathaway quietly bought the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and Union Tank Car manufacturing company — with no notice, dissent or interference, Morningstar observed.

When Keystone XL et al. were blocked, more oil was shipped by rail — much of it via Buffett companies. In fact, oil-by-rail skyrocketed from 9,500 carloads in 2009 to 450,000 carloads in 2014. Buffett’s “investment” in anti-pipeline activism garnered billions in rail revenues.

The anti-pipeline campaigns thwarted thousands of jobs and increased risks of tank car derailments, like the Lac Megantic, Quebec, spill that destroyed much of the town and immolated 47 people. That may be one reason why Buffett recently criticized President Obama’s veto of Keystone XL legislation. He now says the pipeline would be good for both Canada and America, and it is a mistake to jeopardize trade relationships with Canada.

But the campaigns rage on. They are not grassroots, or even AstroTurf. Their “green” tint is the color of unfathomable behind-the-scenes wealth.

The clandestine Buffett-Berkshire-NoVo-Tides-activist-CFACT pipeline rallyrailroad arrangement reflects “a devious strategy on the part of both benefactor and recipient,” Morningstar concludes. “At minimum, it demonstrates an almost criminal conflict of interest.” Perhaps legislators and regulators should investigate.

Meanwhile, pro-Sandpiper students from the Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow presented these inconvenient financial truths to anti-pipeline protesters at an April 30 University of Minnesota rally.

One red-faced protester walked away. Others intensified their chants or shouted racially tinged epithets at the multi-ethnic CFACT students. None wanted to discuss funding issues, America’s need for oil or how best to transport fuels safely. Such is the state of “environmental studies,” “robust debate” and “higher education” on campuses today.


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  1. Brin Jenkins May 21, 2015 at 3:11 AM

    The Social change is the real key. How do so many greenies just not get it?

    Perhaps they do, but have been so persuaded that they can be employed and perhaps feel important. Communism will never appeal to me with some being more equal than others.


    George Orwell Grandfather to the infamous Tony Blair who led the move for regime change through the second Gulf War deposing Sadam Hussain.

    Eric Arthur Blair, who used the pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is marked by lucid prose, awareness of social injustice, opposition to totalitarianism, and commitment to democratic socialism.http://orwell.ru/

    George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a short, easily readable story with valuable lessons about how political and governmental organizations often work. Orwell wrote it as a parable about the Russian Revolution, as an example of how a revolutionary government could be worse than its monarchist predecessor, but it also could apply to many political organizations, labor unions, and the like. The key lesson is that the organization’s bosses often manipulate the organization for their own benefit, and end up being as bad, if not worse, than the real or imaginary evils from which they are protecting their followers.

    • T.G. Crewe May 26, 2015 at 3:34 PM

      Why do folks try to equate renewables with Communism? Seems to be the work of a weak sided argument.

      New technology seems far more of a capitalist idea than continuing to rely on the same old system run by the same people causing the same problems.

      You want M.E. and Russian influence to peter out go renewable.

      • DocForesight May 26, 2015 at 5:19 PM

        Speaking of “true believers”, are you using 100% solar or wind to power your PC allowing you to post comments here?

        Truth is, “renewables” are known as unreliable, intermittent, land-use intensive and require ffeed-in tarrifs, tax subsidies and/or mandated-use laws in order to compete with proven, reliable, on-demand, 24/7 base load power from solid and liquid carbon-based fuels and atomic fission. There is a place for wind and solar – generally it’s in rural, remote or off-grid applications. They are not base-load power generating technologies. The laws of physics are not in their favor for that same reason.

        • T.G. Crewe May 26, 2015 at 5:36 PM

          Primarily nuclear powers my needs and my state is not a big fan of renewables at the moment.

          Let’s take the subsidies conversation off the table as it is silly to argue aagainst when what you argue for has benefited from decades of breaks, subsidies, and military support. If a quarter of those $ went to renewable development we would not be using FF any more.

          • DocForesight May 26, 2015 at 5:51 PM

            There is a reason shipping companies, trucking companies and any other transport system doesn’t use sails, solar panels or recycled unicorn droppings to move commodities, people or anything perishable : they don’t work well When being on-time is critical. You can have the 50 or 60 years head start of atomic fission or petroleum and wind and solar will still not compete. Again, it’s basic physics, energy density, portability, broad utility (liquid fuels used as chemical feedstocks, plastics, fertilizers, engine fuels, etc.) – there is no current comparison or competitor.

            • T.G. Crewe May 26, 2015 at 6:20 PM

              Many shipping companies have looked into electric vehicles and some are in play here in my town. Advancements are made everyday, and continue to get better.

              Remember many said that the horseless carriage was a joke and buggies would be around as the primary form of transportation. Remember Clipper Ships, the fastest form of transportation. Steam engines. How about that man was not meant to fly, break the sound barrier, go to the moon.

              DocForesight you really do not have much foresight if you can not see a future with new technology. There is a day when all the newest stuff is not new anymore.

              • DocForesight May 26, 2015 at 8:39 PM

                Ah yes, electric vehicles. From what resource do these electric vehicles derive their electricity for propulsion? Answer: either coal or natural gas- fired power plants, hydroelectric dams or nuclear power plants. You know that but appear unwilling to admit it. But, but … they are battery powered! Yes, they still require a source to charge them, they wear out and must be replaced every 3 -5 years. Call haz-mat. Thomas Edison delivered a battery powered car 100 years ago but the same problem exists today – limited range, weight, recharging.

                You have made my point for me: horses, clipper ships, steam engines all were replaced with the internal combustion engine burning liquid carbon fuels. Why? It’s more efficient, widely available, transportable, durable and abundant. Peak oil has been buried with all the other predictions of scarcity of resources.

                • T.G. Crewe May 27, 2015 at 7:53 AM

                  As new choices come on-line then less electric cars will be powered by coal or gas. Batteries last longer than 3 years, are recyclable, and are no where near as toxic as those old reports you “fossil fulers” like to refrence. Imagine where we could be if we had 100 years of development of Edison batteries.

                  Nuclear is fine with me. Better the tar sands clear cutting the Alberta forests.

                  New technology replaces old technology, that is true but for you to contend that internal combustion run on gasoline is the apex of our creativity I feel sorry for you. Thank you though for proving my point about buggies and Clipper Ships and your unwillingness, much like builders in the past, to believe that there could be a better was and you have achieved perfection. Hubris has taken down bigger ideas than the one you believe.

                  Oh the peak oil idea. If it’s there then we should burn it, even if it is hard to get to. Classic example of addiction.

                  One thing you all on the FF support side always gloss over is pollution, environmental destruction, and health issues. The Climate debate is a perfect cover for continuation of the problem. Again back to addiction, I still have my job and the money is coming in this is not a problem. Only problem is the destruction you are leaving your future generations.

                  • DocForesight May 27, 2015 at 2:58 PM

                    The “newest” choice in electricity generation is nuclear power but radical environmentalists demagogue its use at every turn. They sew fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) in its use, citing Chernobyl as evidence that it is “too dangerous” to use. While Chernobyl was a disaster and a tragedy, the UN and WHO confirmed that about 50 workers died from the fire due to a lousy 1980s Russian design and incompetent staff trying an unauthorized experiment. That has not happened since and neither Three Mile Island nor Fukushima come close to the Russian accident.

                    You have had 100 years of battery development and, while there have been improvements, they are evolutionary in scope, not revolutionary. Lithium-iron-phospate batteries appear to be the most significant improvement over lead-acid. The internal combustion engine is the greatest improvement so far. I acknowledge there may be other advances yet to be discovered, but they will not occur by legislative mandate.

                    As to the Alberta tar sands, I would venture that you have not read or researched the steps taken to restore the landscape following resource extraction. Even you would be impressed.

                    I proved my point on improvements over horse and buggy, sailing ships and steam locomotives by citing the internal combustion engine. You have offered what, exactly, to prove your point?

                    And how is showing the falacy of “peak oil” an indicator of oil addiction? Did I say that we should drill for it anywhere and everywhere without concern for the environment or consideration of supply/demand? No. You have asserted a false narrative. Nice try.

                    On pollution: the world’s worst polluters are in developing countries that lack the resources and oversight to monitor and clean up their messes. Advanced economies, of which you participate and enjoy the benefits, have improved dramatically over the past 40 years. That is to be celebrated and copied, not denigrated.

                    • T.G. Crewe May 27, 2015 at 4:02 PM

                      Fossil Fuel hates Nuclear as well and has been leading just as strong a charge (Just like the Putin story above), you will find folks on both sides of the coin against it. It’s vilification has been a great tragedy and very unfortunate. Many countries have had limited issues and all accidents, except for Fukushima, were caused by human error. You will not get me there, I like nuclear.

                      100 years of development under the auspice of not needing them because of IC vs development because of wide spread usage. I am sure you can admit that battery tech is growing by leaps and bounds these days and if it had been more than a footnote in the Ford Rockefeller friendship we would be quite a bit farther ahead.

                      Would it not be better to leave old growth Boreal Forests untouched rather the clear cutting and replanting where it will take 100’s of years to regrow? I am not too impressed with the Tar Sands and happy the NDP will make for an interesting few years in Alberta. Believe it or not I have family in the business, and it is where our family money comes from. Does not mean I can’t look at the alternatives. Most would agree that oil is an asset that is better served in other industry than in our cars, it is like bathing in Perrier.

                      Peak Oil and Addiction. It was a nod to similar talk that addicts speak to when looking at justification for their desires.

                      My point re buggies and ships is that you, nor I, know exactly what the next great leap is going to be but it could be relatively safe to say it will not be from IC more likely electric or hydrogen. I mean Auto makers have said repeatedly that it is impossible to make their machines more efficient every time the CAFE standards are raised.
                      Look at what Elon Musk (yeah our savior, cough cough) has done in a relatively short time with Electric Cars, battery tech, and Space Exploration. Entrenched auto makers said there is no way electric cars would sell, they did and the old guard started to make them, you can’t go to space unless you are Boeing/Lockheed/NASA it is impossible yet he did, and others are fast on his heals. Thank heavens people like him has the financial will and desire to make these pushes forward.

                      RE pollution no disrespect to the advances made I just desire for us to be better stewards. Coal is not the path to prosperity, emerging technology and renewables can act as a catalyst to connectivity like cell phones were. Decentralization, battery storage.. plenty of fun stuff coming.

                      Fun Fact, are you aware that the record for circumnavigation via water is held by a sail boat. In fact they made it around 15 days faster than the fastest power boat.

                    • DocForesight May 27, 2015 at 4:55 PM

                      Electric cars suffer from built-in limitations: limited range, slow recharging, limited access to recharging stations, relatively short battery life (aand the components of those batteries must be mined from somewhere, refined by industrial processes and manufactured into functional units – all of which takes energy). Sales of electric cars are dismal and would be even worse if not for tax benefits – paid for by other taxpayers. Tesla cars are selling for the princely sum of $100k – hardly an entry level vehicle. Will they develop and release a lower priced one? Sure. When? We’ll see.

                      I don’t have a dog in this fight, other than common sense. What matters to me is availability of affordable, abundant energy resources that are used to enhance the quality of life for all but particularly those who have never enjoyed what we have and take for granted. If “renewables” are that vehicle, then fine, but they should do so on their own merit. Coal may not be the best resource for generating electricity but it is the most abundant and affordable now. I’d rather see SMR and thorium nuclear power plants replace coal but that is a long-term prospect and 2 billion people ought not have to wait 20 – 30 – 40 years for basic electricity.

                    • T.G. Crewe May 27, 2015 at 5:32 PM

                      95% of all car trips in the US are under 30 miles. No problem for range there.

                      New technology costs money, as early adoption happens price can scale down, simple economics.

                      Tax benifits are on both side of the coin FF benifits mightily in that world. We don’t pay the real price for electricity in the US no one can deny that. Decades of neglect to our power transmission lines will cost billions to upgrade. Once those costs start rolling down the line…

                    • DocForesight May 27, 2015 at 5:55 PM

                      If a person wants to buy an electric car for their commute, fine by me, but I should not be called upon to subsidize their decision any more than I am subsidizing the purchase of a gas or diesel vehicle. No one buys a $100 k Tesla to save money on their 30 mile commute, right? If they have the means to buy it and it serves their purpose, fine, but let’s not pretend that they are saving money doing so.

                      Would you care to cite your sources for the “real cost of electricty”? As to the degraded status of our electric grid, are you saying that expanding unreliables will improve that situation?

                    • T.G. Crewe May 27, 2015 at 6:56 PM

                      Compared to another 100k car, you probably are based on gas, oil changes, etc. But the top end is the test bed for future use. Military, yacht racing, race cars, early adopters of cell, large TV’s etc… advances at the top trickle down.

                      Re true cost of energy, I find it very hard to believe you don’t understand what I am saying but I will play along.

                      Power grid needs an upgrade –

                      U.S. Power Grid’s $2 Trillion Push Needs European Efficiency -http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-22/u-s-power-grid-s-2-trillion-upgrade-needs-european-efficiency

                      Let’s not forget FF subsidies, breaks to power companies, royalties not collected etc.


                      Our grid needs a massive overhaul, continued neglect saved us money over the years but has left us vunerable on national defense. Now it’s going to cost us no matter what the source.

                    • DocForesight May 27, 2015 at 8:01 PM

                      I am well-aware of how advances in racing technology filters down to consumer vehicles and the effect of Moore’s Law on consumer electronics pricing. And spare me your snark about the true cost of energy. What people need to know is Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) where as many of the externalities are included as possible to get the true cost to the consumer. Unreliables like wind and solar need to include the cost of back-up natural gas generators since the inputs are not predictable or controllable and their Capacity Factor is so low (wind at 35%, solar at 15%) compared to coal (50%), natural gas (60%) and nuclear (90%).

                      Yes, the grid needs upgrading but expanding the use of unreliables is not the way to efficiently or affordably do it.

                    • T.G. Crewe May 28, 2015 at 8:58 AM

                      Snark? Terribly sorry if you feel I was being snarky but my commentary is justified as you came back with an intelligent rebuttal to my comments.

                      Technology is changing, rapidly and there will be a shift. Pollution is the enemy of us all weather you are FF or Green and this endless nonsense needs to he channeled into a sustainable and clean future.

                    • DocForesight May 28, 2015 at 12:08 PM

                      Here is an example of what I was referring to above with LCOE: http://judithcurry.com/2015/05/12/true-costs-of-wind-electricity/
                      Windmills have been around for hundreds of years yet their inherent limitations have not been diminished. Solar suffers from the same diffuse, uncontrollable input and low CF. Both of these have their place in energy generation but let’s be clear about their limitations, as they currently exist.

                      As I stated earlier, advanced economies and societies with growing income have the resources to take care of their environmental mishaps. Subsistence economies do not – they are too busy just staying alive from day to day to be concerned about pollution. Affordable, abundant energy is what sets them free to be good stewards of their resources – physical and human.

                  • jreb57 December 16, 2015 at 10:54 AM

                    The world’s record for distance for an electric powered car was recently established by the Tesla. Three hundred and twenty five miles…at 25 miles per hour. It uses lithium ion batteries, the kind that catch on fire, built into the frame. The maximum amount a battery can store is limited by cell voltage and plate area. Lithium is the most electro-negative element in the periodic table. It is now used in the most energy dense batteries that have been or are likely to be developed.

                    • T.G. Crewe December 16, 2015 at 11:57 AM

                      actually that was 452.8 miles on a single charge at 25 mph for the Tesla.

                      There was a van that hit 808 miles on a single charge too.

                      Things are a changing and battery tech is far from hitting a wall, it’s just getting started.

      • jreb57 December 16, 2015 at 10:39 AM

        “Why do folks try to equate renewables with Communism?”
        I have a hard time relating to that argument as well since there is no such thing as “renewable” or “green” energy but there is still such thing as “Communism” The law of conservation of energy states that energy and matter can be neither created nor destroyed (but they can be changed from one to the other according to the formula E=MC squared. The real question is where are we going to get it and what the total costs will be. A good example of a new technology that was rejected by propaganda is nuclear power.

        • T.G. Crewe December 17, 2015 at 7:28 PM

          I have no problem with nuclear.

          Get over the Renewables semantics.

          • jreb57 December 31, 2015 at 1:45 PM

            “Get over the Renewables semantics.”
            Energy exists in two forms, potential and kinetic. When potential energy is released, it is in the form of kinetic energy. Energy and matter can be neither created nor destroyed but can be changed from one to the other according to the formula E=MCsquared.

  2. Michael Harris May 21, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    This is a wonderful article outlining so many of the issues at hand. These Pro Green Eco Activists are being used as useful idiots. Activists whose belief is funded by real wealth for interests far beyond. I just ordered this book.

  3. disqus_Li56uZxHMU May 26, 2015 at 10:52 AM

    Social media has made an age old problem much worse https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTdDN_MRe64

  4. T.G. Crewe May 26, 2015 at 11:38 AM

    This article is pure Irony.

    Mouthpiece blog of the American pro FF anti renewables getting upset by other billionares influencing positions surreptitiously.

    So delicious.

    • Brin Jenkins May 26, 2015 at 2:42 PM

      Hey, if alternative technology work great, I have a ten year old solar water heating system still working, only because I was able to substitute its failed digital controller with a home brewed analogue device bought on ebay. Reliability and spares are a problem yet to be solved for most folks. I installed my own solar bore hole water pump, unfortunately the problems lay in the low voltage pumps not being up to the reliability and functionality testing.

  5. fedupMan May 26, 2015 at 4:41 PM

    If all this green stuff is so great WHY does it need all this public $ that most of just gets lost in the shuffle as a payoff for pols to their buddies/political $ contributors. They scratch each others back and the public gets raped. biggest racket on the planet. Denmark, Germany peoples pay 4 times + what US people pay.
    Denmark erected over 5,000 wind turbine towers,
    one for every thousand Danish citizens. Turbines blanket the nation, providing
    a beautiful view of a 300- to 500-foot tall tower from almost every house,
    farm, field, forest, and beach. But in total, the turbines turbines produce only 1.3 gigawatts of electricity on average.
    The latitude of central Germany is the same as
    Calgary, Canada. As a result, German solar installations generate electricity
    at less than ten percent of rated output. Lot people really ripped off the little guys and the big guys are laughing all the way to the bank.

    • T.G. Crewe May 26, 2015 at 5:38 PM

      Why does oil need breaks and subsidies plus military support. If it’s so great it should stand on its own.

      • fedupMan May 28, 2015 at 1:29 AM

        Oil get same breaks other business get, they pay lot of taxes and provide good jobs. Their profit margins are small. Nike shoes make 40-50 % profit and shoes are built over there in some other co. Go to public school you are subsided. The list goes on. I know all this is a real witch to live with. The military has to fight anywhere on planet. Been there done that in 70’s. Another real witch is you go to war with what you have. Today nukes have changed everything. Once they start they will spread elsewhere, ain’t no stopping that.
        Nothing stands on its own today, everybody gets some form of subsidy.

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