Jeb, the Pope, and the Donald – June 21, 2015

Today we talk about five things in the news for the week of June 14, 2015:

  1. The Pope Talks Climate
  2. Republicans React to the Pope
  3. The Donald Runs for President, Loves Fracking (also Jeb)
  4. John McCain Promises Natural Gas to Ukraine
  5. LNG Cleans Up Cruise Ships

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1.  The Pope Takes on the Climate Debate

The big news in energy this week is that the Pope weighed in on climate change in an encyclical about the “care for our common home.”  If you don’t know, Wikipedia explains:

For the modern Catholic Church, a Papal encyclical is a kind of letter concerning Catholic doctrine sent by the Pope addressed to bishops, patriarchs, primates, archbishops who are in communion with the Holy See.

Many in the news have called this an exhaustive document about climate change, but that is not really true.  The document is very long; it has 246 numbered paragraphs.  But only a handful of this paragraphs actually talk about climate change.  Each pope typically does only a handful of encyclicals, so this will likely stand as Pope Francis’ defining work on a number of issues.  He touched on a range of things, saying:

  • 44.  Neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space.
  • 47.  Real relationships with others, with all the challenges they entail, now tend to be replaced by a type of internet communication which enables us to choose or eliminate relationships at whim.
  • 52.  The foreign debt of poor countries has become a way of controlling them, yet this is not the case where ecological debt is concerned.
  • 133.  It is difficult to make a general judgement about genetic modification (GM), whether vegetable or animal, medical or agricultural, since these vary greatly among themselves and call for specific considerations.

His analysis and commentary on climate change was not particularly deep.  Here are the key excerpts:

 21.  The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.

23.  A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. …. It is true that there are other factors (such as volcanic activity, variations in the earth’s orbit and axis, the solar cycle), yet a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity. Concentrated in the atmosphere, these gases do not allow the warmth of the sun’s rays reflected by the earth to be dispersed in space. The problem is aggravated by a model of development based on the intensive use of fossil fuels, which is at the heart of the worldwide energy system.

26.  There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting for fossil fuels and developing sources of renewable energy.

165.  We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions.

170. Some strategies for lowering pollutant gas emissions call for the internationalization of environmental costs, which would risk imposing on countries with fewer resources burdensome commitments to reducing emissions comparable to those of the more industrialized countries. Imposing such measures penalizes those countries most in need of development.

171. The strategy of buying and selling “carbon credits” can lead to a new form of speculation which would not help reduce the emission of polluting gases worldwide. This system seems to provide a quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require. Rather, it may simply become a ploy which permits maintaining the excessive consumption of some countries and sectors.

173. Enforceable international agreements are urgently needed, since local authorities are not always capable of effective intervention. Relations between states must be respectful of each other’s sovereignty, but must also lay down mutually agreed means of averting regional disasters which would eventually affect everyone.

179.  Society, through non-governmental organizations and intermediate groups, must put pressure on governments to develop more rigorous regulations, procedures and controls. Unless citizens control political power – national, regional and municipal – it will not be possible to control damage to the environment. Local legislation can be more effective, too, if agreements exist between neighbouring communities to support the same environmental policies.

The Pope relies on the “very solid scientific consensus” and “a number of scientific studies” to declare that climate change is a problem and that it is caused by fossil fuels.  ExxonMobil reportedly sent representatives to lobby the Pope, and that may have been a partially-successful trip.  The Pope completely trashed coal, but says oil and natural gas are not as bad.  He also appears to trash cap-and-trade type schemes.  Instead, he seems to call for regulations phasing out fossil fuels.

2.  Republicans React to the Pope

Now, all the Republican candidates for President are being asked to respond.  Jeb Bush, who is Catholic, said he does not get economic advice from the Pope and pretty much left it at that.

Another Catholic from Florida, Marco Rubio, made similar comments:

“I have no problem with what the pope did. He is a moral authority and as a moral authority is reminding us of our obligation to be good caretakers of the planet,” Rubio said. “I’m a political leader and my job as a policymaker is to act in the common good. And I do believe it’s in the common good to protect our environment. But I also believe it’s in the common good to protect our economy. There are people all over this planet and in this country who have emerged from poverty in large respect because of the availability of affordable energy. It creates industries. It makes the cost of living lower. And we have to take that into account as well.”

Mike Huckabee, a preacher, made stronger comments on Meet the Press.  He highlighted the importance of the U.S. becoming an energy exporter and thereby disrupting the power of Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia.

Rick Santorum had perhaps the roughest go of it.  After Santorum suggested the Pope should leave science to the scientists, Chris Wallace asked why that would not apply to him as well.  Santorum went on to say that energy security is more important than fighting climate change based on speculative science.

3.  The Donald Runs for President, Loves Fracking (also Jeb)

Donald Trump officially became a candidate for President.  He talked a good bit about energy and geopolitics.  He said that U.S. oil and gas would strengthen America’s hand abroad, and he also was perhaps the only candidate to use the term “fracking.”  I think it is fair to say this guy will not become President.  But he is highly likely to get a seat in the Republican debates.

Jeb Bush also announced this week.  His remarks on energy were muted.  He called for repealing EPA regulations and embracing the North American energy revolution.

4.  John McCain Promises Natural Gas to Ukraine

Last week, Senators John McCain (R-AZ), John Barrasso (R-WY), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) made a visit to Ukraine.

Much of Europe’s natural gas comes through Ukraine and Ukraine itself is very dependent on Russian natural gas.  Never fear, says McCain (according to the Russian press):

The US will be able to supply natural gas to Ukraine and Europe within two years, Senator John McCain pledged in Kiev. The American politician believes that only gas reliance prevents European countries from hardening sanctions against Russia.

“The United States will supply natural gas to Ukraine and other parts of Europe in two years,” McCain said on Saturday, RIA Novosti reported.

Ukraine may well need it.  Politico reported last week that Russia took another step towards bypassing Ukraine:

The cash-strapped and increasingly friendless Greek government on Friday signed a preliminary agreement with Russia on a €2 billion project that would build a pipeline through Greece to link up with the controversial Moscow-backed Turkish Stream scheme….

Russia wants to build Turkish Stream, carrying 63 billion cubic meters a year of gas, across the Black Sea to Turkey. The pipeline is supposed to be completed by the end of 2016.

The two agreements are part of a Russian push to circumvent Ukraine as a gas transit route and also undermines the EU’s attempts to diversify its gas supplies away from Russia, which currently supplies about a third of the bloc’s needs.

5.  LNG Cleans Up Cruise Ships

Your next cruise just might be powered with liquefied natural gas, says the Maritime Executive:

Carnival Corporation has signed a multi-billion dollar contract with Meyer Werft for four LNG-powered cruise ships, which will also have the largest guest capacity in the world.

Each of the four next-generation ships will be able to accommodate 6,600 guests. They will additionally have over 5,000 lower berths and will exceed 180,000 gross tons. A major component of the next-generation design involves making much more efficient use of the ship’s spaces, creating an enhanced onboard experience for guests.

That is a good thing, apparently.  According to the Cruise Law News blog, the industry has some cleaning up to do:

The four new ships will be the among the first in the cruise industry to use LNG to power cruise ships in port and on the open water which will eliminate emissions of soot particles and sulfur oxides. I have written many times about the harmful effects of the tremendous amount of bunker fuel burned by the cruise industry. Carnival’s announcement, admittedly long overdue, is truly unprecedented by a major cruise line. … it certainly seems that the new ships Carnival announced today will be a major step in the right direction in reducing air pollution.