It’s Global Warming, Stupid: Bloomberg Editors Endorse Unleashing Tar Sands With Keystone XL Pipeline

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness….

In this tale of two headlines, we start with Bloomberg’s famous post-Sandy cover, “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

You might’ve thought that said it all. In fact, the story itself asserted:

… the only responsible first step is to put climate change back on the table for discussion. The issue was missing-in-action during the presidential debates and, regardless of who wins on Nov. 6, is unlikely to appear on the near-term congressional calendar. After Sandy, that seems insane.

… Ultimately, the global warming crisis will require global solutions. Washington can become a credible advocate for moving the Chinese and Indian economies away from coal and toward alternatives only if the U.S. takes concerted political action.

So, obviously, for the sake of our global credibility, if nothing else, we shouldn’t approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Right? Right??

But, no, now we have this headline from the editors at Bloomberg:

And this editorial waves off climate concerns:

Even though extracting and refining bitumen from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada, emits much more carbon dioxide than ordinary oil-drilling, total emissions from the tar-sands crude are only about 20 percent greater than from other oil, because most emissions come from burning the fuel.

So because the tar sands are only 20% dirtier than a fuel we have to wean ourselves off in the coming decades, we can sweep aside the climate concerns.

Is that insane or just stupid?

Keystone is a gateway to a huge pool of carbon-intensive fuel most of which must be left in the ground. Leaving most of the world’s coal in the ground but still pursuing unconventional oil and gas won’t save humanity from multiple devastating impacts that may be beyond adaptation. That’s doubly true if, instead of switching from coal to renewables, we switch from coal to shale gas.

At this point “Developed Nations Must Cut Emissions In Half By 2020” as one 2013 study showed. Then we need to be on a path to more than an 80% cut by 2050.

And again, if the richest country in the world insists on sticking new spigots into huge, dirty carbon pools like the tar sands, how can we be credible advocates for moving the Chinese and Indians to transition off of dirty fuels?

You were right the first time, Bloomberg editors, it is global warming, stupid!

h/t Brad Johnson

44 Responses to It’s Global Warming, Stupid: Bloomberg Editors Endorse Unleashing Tar Sands With Keystone XL Pipeline

  1. Superman1 says:

    Whether Keystone gets approved or not is irrelevant. We have enough fossil fuel reserves to destroy the climate many times over without it. Now, it appears the Japanese are investigating mining the deep undersea methane clathrates, which would open up yet another massive reserve.

  2. Superman1 says:

    The supply side is unstoppable. The only possible hope is through the demand side; reducing the demand of seven billion citizens of the planet for fossil fuel. My odds of winning the Powerball Lottery are ten times greater than achieving the latter.

  3. catman306 says:

    I repeat myself:

    Business As Usual is a self-regenerating system that can only be broken by powerful outside forces and catastrophes. Climate change, ocean acidification, methane hydrates and tropospheric ozone are only four of many such forces.

    Stand by.

  4. Superman1 says:

    Unfortunately, given the multi-decadal lag times in the climate system, once we see real catastrophes, the game is over.

  5. Ed Leaver says:

    “So, obviously, for the sake of our global credibility, if nothing else, we shouldn’t approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline…”

    But how can we possibly maintain our global credibility if we deny KXL whilst continuing to export our own coal? Or perhaps Bloomberg has checked the spot market on our global credibility. Perhaps it isn’t worth the farthing.

  6. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The Indians and Chinese are doing a great job of changing their own energy mixes, thank you. American ‘leadership’ died a long time ago, except in American minds, ME

  7. M Tucker says:

    You can’t expect a business magazine to stand by a story written in the hysterical aftermath of a superstorm can you? As Jeff Spross pointed out, “Globally, the investment in unburnable fossil fuels has reached $674 billion in U.S. dollars per year. Either that money goes to waste, or the climate will be catastrophically destabilized [and the investors make massive amounts of money].”

    So we have catastrophic destabilization of the climate vs national governments, the wealthiest corporations on Earth, and many, many private investors. I wonder who will win?

  8. “So we have catastrophic destabilization of the climate vs national governments, the wealthiest corporations on Earth, and many, many private investors. I wonder who will win?”

    Everybody will lose — even the wealthy elite who will be able to buy immunity from the results of their malfeasance for a while, but not for long.

  9. Addicted says:

    Bloomberg != Bloomberg Businessweek. Bloomberg View is closer to Michael Bloomberg’s thoughts.

    What is strange is that Michael Bloomberg is extremely aware of the problems fenerate by global warming, so this editorial just sounds strange.

    However, when you look at other similar stuff over the last few weeks (Labor unions endorsing KXL, Immigration focused groups endorsing KXL, Zuckerberg’s education focused PAC endorsing KXL, all of which are pretty progressive orgs with no illusions about the threat of global warming) it is clear that there is some quid pro quo going on here.

    I think there is an agreement to endorse push for KXL in return for something else (I am guessing it is in return for immigration).

  10. Addicted says:

    I meant to say Bloomberg View != Bloomberg Businessweek.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    One of the features of the psychopathy of the capitalist elite is, of course, prodigious egomania, often quite risible as these are specimens of Homo sapiens of not quite the highest order. Simple souls, fit for ‘success’ in capitalism because of their mastery of certain basic talents eg the ability to lie without conscience, the talent to always put oneself before others, the gift of insatiable greed and the felicitous capacity to never feel others’ pain or empathise with the ‘losers’. Their egos tell them that they are ‘The Masters of the Universe’ and that they are inviolate. When the truth dawns, expect, as ever, something really nasty.

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’d doubt that there is a ‘quid pro quo’ for destroying humanity. I simply smell yet another ‘progressive’ sell-out.

  13. BobbyL says:

    Seriously, China and India? China, which accounts for almost half of all coal burning, uses coal for almost 80% of its electricity and is proposing hundreds of new coal plants. India also is proposing hundreds of new coal plants. In US, coal used to account for half of electricity but now accounts for about a third, and the US installed more wind capacity in 2012 than any other nation. Also, China’s emissions are increasing by about 10% a year whereas US emissions in recent years has declined. Yes, the US lacks leadership on fighting global warming but so do most other countries.

  14. Mike Roddy says:

    This is the money talking. Bloomberg got a nasty message from the big boys, including the auto and bank corporations. This garbage article is his way of apologizing.

  15. BobbyL says:

    Michael Bloomberg seems to be an enigma. He gave 50 million of his own money to the Sierra Club to stop coal burning and he can be credited with making New York City arguably the number one city in the country when it comes to taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As mayor he has certainly led the charge against global warming when it comes to cities. I can’t explain Bloomberg Business Week’s view on Keystone. If Bloomberg has an overall view for fighting global warming it would be interesting to hear it.

  16. catman306 says:

    Kevin Drum reviews Ryan Koronowski’s

    Climate Change Is An Existential Threat To Humanity, Just Don’t Mention Protecting ‘The Environment

    “On the right, both climate change and questions about global limits on oil production have exited the realm of empirical debate and become full-blown fronts in the culture wars. You’re required to mock them regardless of whether it makes any sense. And it’s weird as hell. I mean, why would you disparage development of renewable energy? If humans are the ultimate creators, why not create innovative new sources of renewable energy instead of digging up every last fluid ounce of oil on the planet?”

  17. That sounds about right. It’s deeply disappointing.

    I wonder about these analyses that show the CO2 output of KXL to be only marginally larger than other sources of gas. I think they must be omitting some key components, like the constant mining and liquefaction of the bitumen and the byproducts of that process which take energy to dispose of (just moving the tailings around must take tremendous energy), the deforestation, the addition of diluents which add to the EROEI, and the the massive accumulation of sulfur.

    The real problem is that once you’ve allowed the investment in a project this capital-intensive, people will fight desperately not to strand that investment. Nobody wants to lose that much money. A pipeline is forever–as is the resource exploitation that feeds it.

  18. Joan Savage says:

    Bloomberg News got its reputation from its research but this editorial doesn’t measure up.

    Their view shows an ignorance of the shift in petroleum trade with Venezuela in recent years. Venezuela’s refineries are in bad shape and so that oil-rich country has been importing oil from the US in greater quantity.

    The editorial’s conclusion that the US would import oil from Canada AND Venezuela via rail and boat respectively, in the absence of the KXL, is therefore unfounded. If anything, KXL would feed exports TO Venezuela in the process of making inroads (pun) on the petroleum reserves there.

    It is plenty bad enough that the editors lobotomized themselves from the necessity to brake greenhouse gas, but to also lose track of existing trade conditions is also notable.

  19. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I think you need to update your views Bobby. Have a look at China’s last 5 year plan and what they are actually doing at the moment. There have also been more up to date reports on India on CP, ME

  20. Paul Magnus says:

    Insane. Even the NYT says no. WT…

  21. fj says:

    This does not make sense with Bloomberg’s commitments to stop climate change.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The fall in US emissions is due to some renewable actions, a lot of recession (well depression, really) and the off-shoring of manufacturing to countries like China. So, many Chinese emissions are displaced from the rich countries. China has announced an end to the growth in coal, is leading or near the lead in most renewables, has made solar PV much cheaper for all the world, and is working on emissions trading schemes. China nit-picking is simply silly. Co-operation with China, Germany and India must be a US priority-not anachronistic contests for dominance.

  23. Superman1 says:

    Nobody’s hands are clean on this issue. Every major fossil fuel find, such as our North Dakota find, Canada’s, Australia’s, and perhaps Japan’s recent exploration of extracting methane from the clathrates, has been/is being/will be exploited to the max. The economic and socio-political drivers appear to outweigh any technical or humanitarian concerns.

  24. Superman1 says:

    What about those thousand coal plants on the Chinese drawing board; have they disappeared?

  25. rjs says:

    here’s a 30 year chart on tar sands production:–Lr8QSDYuI4/UXp7r0eQL3I/AAAAAAAAEzk/aTvPhK37_G4/s1600/Screen+Shot+2013-04-26+at+8.57.21+AM.png

    you see it’s growing exponentially; doesnt look like the lack of a pipeline is slowing it down…

  26. fj says:

    Fossil fuel industry (other exposed industries, institutions, etc.) must eliminate exposure and transfer revenue streams, equity, etc. to clean tech; $trillions: contracts, investments, factor10 growth . . .

  27. fj says:

    Too good to be true same revolution

  28. fj says:

    Too good to be true same sex revolution

  29. Martin Gisser says:


  30. addicted says:

    I don’t think they believe KXL destroys humanity.

    I agree with some of the comments above. We are not going to win this on the supply side. We can only win this on the demand side. Let them build KXL. But let’s make sure no one buys stuff coming out of there.

    I am slowly buying into the idea that the best way to prevent this junk is to make users (governments, businesses, consumers) recognize that we just cannot afford to burn this stuff. Once you gain some traction there, the finance people will realize that fossil fuels are just a bubble waiting to burst, and will stop funding expansion.

  31. BobbyL says:

    In terms of value of products the US is the number one manufacturing country in the world. What about all the products we export. Should those emissions from our manufacturing be counted in the countries that buy our products? We need one standard for everybody. Where the emissions are actually coming from seems like the simplest way to calculate.

  32. BobbyL says:

    I think the fall in emissions in the US is mostly due to replacing coal with natural gas. Improvements in efficiency and actions taken by cities and towns have probably also helped.

  33. BobbyL says:

    Good question. Last I heard there were about 900 coal-burning plants proposed in all. The majority are proposed for India but the plants proposed for China would have a larger overall capacity. Supposedly if these plants were all built it would be the equivalent of adding another United State in terms of coal burning.

  34. Daniel Coffey says:

    China is so far ahead of the US, the comparison is absurd. They are now projected, based on performance to date, to achieve 100,000 MW of solar PV power by 2020. The US isn’t even in the neighborhood.

    The Chinese have moved so quickly it defies the imagination of typical Americans, accustomed as they are to slow-walk solutions slowed even more by environmental objections over relative trivialities and Republican barriers.

  35. Daniel Coffey says:

    Never underestimate the opportunities to arbitrage one system against the other in order to maximize the profit of sunk costs. The 100 trillion dollars of previous investment in fossil fuels are demanding a payout, which is extended over time by slow-walk solutions like “solar-on-rooftop” that sustains the current status and does not threaten either transportation fuels or the larger fossil fuel industry.

    It’s great to imagine a shift in views, but B-school thinking maximizes profits from all sources, even if that means sacrificing some part of the portfolio. When oil companies become energy companies controlling renewables, renewables will be expensive in order to protect the whole financial portfolio.

  36. Daniel Coffey says:

    I like your comments, as they reflect a thoughtful consideration of other factors than the immediately apparent distractions offered up by the fossil fuel PR firms, who work overtime seeking to distract “environmentalists” with the game of the week. A steady bead on the target is what is needed and sadly lacking from most of the thinking on this topic.

    Cheaper large-scale solar PV, wind and geothermal is what will displace natural gas, oil and coal for electricity and transportation. But environmentalists are always playing into the hands of the fossil fuel planners by demanding higher prices for solar PV via FIT and the like.

    Take a look at these pieces for a different perspective. \\

  37. Ed Leaver says:

    That is an important consideration in Carbon Tax policy. As international cooperation has thus far not been forthcoming, one aspect of a national Carbon Tax must be equivalent cross-border taxation of ff energy-intensive goods imported from countries that do not tax that ff energy. The idea is to adequately incentivise low-carbon energy consumption while maintaining an internationally competitive overall business environment. It does presuppose that local low-carbon energy has not too much greater internal cost than the foreign high-carbon alternative.

  38. Ed Leaver says:

    Ah. A stiff revenue-neutral tax on all fossil-fuels exported from our shores?

  39. Ed Leaver says:

    Thanks Dan. In future articles you might consider replacing “large-scale PV” with “large-scale PV/CST”, the problem being that while CST can provide some 9 -15 hours thermal inertia, efficient PV output — particularly fixed-angle SOR — is constrained to a few hours each side of noon. Large-scale solar-tracking PV of course does better. But when the sun sets, it sets. There remains a place for SOR, but in the absence of cheap storage its depressingly small. Whether EVs-on-a-smartgrid-charged-by-PV-while-parked-at-the-office can appreciably dent the problem — and when — remains to be seen.

  40. fj says:

    Solar is much more like computer ICs than oil and companies controlling continually dropping costs, increasing efficiency and functionality will be like IBM, Intel, and Hewlett Packard.

  41. fj says:

    Net zero transportation and building will also rely on commodities which will not readily be produced by the fossil fuel industry.

    Terrific growth for the fossil fuel industry will lie elsewhere.