Episode 9

Dolphins, green bonds, lyin' coal companies and electric buses

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The Angry Clean Energy Guy on dolphins dying en masse in Peru because of offshore oil & gas exploration techniques and in France because of industrial fishing; on why green bonds do more harm than goods; on lyin’ coal companies and the forked tongues at BP Oil; and on electric buses and why they should be deployed everywhere right now

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Episode Transcript:

Hi, I am The Angry Clean Energy Guy, Assaad Razzouk. Welcome to episode 9 of my podcast. I am so happy you’re here. Thank you. This week I am going to rant about dolphins being made to disappear off the coast of Peru by offshore oil and gas, and I’ll tell you how; I’m going to rant about the green bonds con; I’m going to rant about lying coal companies and finally about British Petroleum or BP oil, the forked oil company that can’t stop itself from saying one thing and doing another, all the while merrily going about doing its bit to destroy the planet.

DOLPHINS IN PERU

I was intrigued this week by a story headline, “Over 3000 dolphins found dead on the coast of Peru.” That’s over 3000 dolphins. So I decided to look into it in some detail because in episode 3 of this podcast, I covered the death earlier this year in 2019 of over a thousand dolphins that washed ashore in France. So the same kind of story in Peru was very intriguing and I looked at it in more detail and it turns out that massive deaths of dolphins have been reported in Peru since 2012 – that’s seven years ago – and investigated since 2012 with the conclusion in the case of Peru being very clear: These dolphins are dying from acoustic trauma caused by loud sonar and explosives from offshore oil and gas exploration techniques. 

The French dolphins, the dolphins that washed ashore in France earlier this year, they were horribly mutilated and the cause of death there was industrial fishing, big boats prowling the oceans indiscriminately, catching thousands and thousands of fish and killing them in their wake while then bringing back for our consumption, only a fraction and leaving the rest to die, horribly mutilated in the sea, with a fraction of these washing ashore as a result of that. And these horrible stories on the one hand from industrial fishing and on the other hand in Peru from offshore oil and gas exploration are massively under reported. You just don’t seem to hear about them. But I think that the media should make it very clear when it reports on industrial fishing or offshore oil and gas exploration, that the environmental destruction from these activities is absolutely enormous. And the fact that this type of news is nowhere to be found makes me so angry. 

Industrial fishing should be banned. Offshore oil and gas exploration is something we don’t need more of. We simply don’t need the oil and gas that these companies are looking for. We can’t afford the oil and gas. We don’t want the oil and gas. And at an absolute bare minimum, we have to make sure these companies pay for the environmental destruction that they’re causing. They are paying nothing for the killing of thousands and thousands of mammals daily and weekly and monthly and millions in total per year. They’re paying nothing for that marine life that they are wiping out. The industrial fishing industry is paying nothing and the offshore oil and gas industry is paying nothing and we have to change that. These industries have to pay for the environmental destruction that they are causing. That is why they’re able to sell us their product cheaply and to bury the world with cheap oil. That is exactly why. It’s because they’re getting away with literally the murder of life in the oceans.

 

GREEN BONDS

let me tell you why green bonds do more harm than good. You may have heard about them. They’re basically IOUs issued by companies, by banks, by cities, by countries where the issuer promises that if you give them the money they want to raise one of the bond, they will use the money for climate friendly or environmentally friendly green investments. 

So you would think that that’s a good thing, but in fact it’s not. They are designed to fund projects that have a positive environmental impact, but in real life they are being used to mask environmental destruction in frankly, far too many cases for my liking and that needs to be fixed while we have time. 

One of my favorite recent issuers is the Royal Bank of Canada, which is not even pretending that its green bonds are going to be used to fund green projects. It actually went out and said very clearly that its green bonds may be used to finance oil and gas companies. 

And you’ve got banks issuing green bonds where basically the money goes into the bank’s balance sheet. And frankly, because money is fungible, nobody’s got a clue where that money’s going. And the bank can tell you anything that it wants and you can’t disprove them either. And so these instruments are being abused by so many issuers and account for a tiny 0.5% of all the bonds being issued. 

So I have a few suggestions why, why aren’t all bonds green? 

The second suggestion is that anybody issuing a green bond should no longer be issuing any other kinds of bond because otherwise they’re taking the piss. They’re basically claiming that they’re going to issue this green bond and raise some money and they’re going to put it in this pocket; then they’re going to issue this other bond and they’re going to get money and they’re going to put it in another pocket and they’re going to differentiate how they’re going to use the money in the two pockets when that is something that they can cheat about so easily because money’s fungible. 

Green bonds are overhyped, they’re being misused and they are doing more harm than good. 

All bonds should be green, all of them. I mean, why is 99.5% of the bond market not green? What does that mean exactly? Let me give you a couple of examples. So Poland raised recently billions from green bonds, but Poland’s green bonds, they fund token projects that distract from the fact that the Polish government’s public and loud policy is to promote coal. And by the way to promote deforestation as well. Now, why is Poland allowed to raise green bonds and okay, fine, let’s allow it to raise green bonds, but how about then the bond markets not buying anything else out of Poland except green bonds. So it’s just fine for Poland to raise the green bond for token projects and then raise other bonds to build coal and, and to promote deforestation. I don’t think so, but the banks involved apparently were fine with all that.  Except that is the antithesis of green investing: Using green labels to obfuscate, to hide environmental irresponsibility, to hide destruction. 

My other favorite is Indonesia, the first Asian country to sell bonds labeled green and also you know, another issuer that’s raised billions doing that. Now the green bond paperwork of Indonesia commits the country to absolutely nothing at all. Just vague promises that all is going to be green and well. But that’s from a country famed for out of control palm oil production driving massive deforestation of the rainforest and haze and health hazards to Indonesians and to their neighbors as well – and famed for an energy sector addicted to oil and coal. 

And that’s despite the fact that Indonesia is endowed with plentiful, free sun and wind. 

Now banks underwriting these green bonds are responsible for many other outrageous outcomes. They’ve got green bonds funding clean coal when everybody should know that there is no such thing as clean coal. They’ve got bonds issued by fossil fuel utilities, they’ve got bonds issued by themselves, the banks, with the money going God knows where. And green is being promoted as a tiny little exception to the general rule and even that exception is being abused. 

We cannot live anymore in a world where 99.5% of the bond market is not green, where 99.5% of the bond market is functioning very nicely with no regard whatsoever to whether the money raised is exacerbating climate change. Countries and companies today don’t have to turn responsible or green at all to issue a green bond and that makes me so angry and it’s just wrong.

At the moment. All these people have to do is sign up to cheap and cheerful standards, which frankly aren’t regulated really properly by anybody and are certainly not enforced by anybody with regulatory power. And then once you issue the green bond, there are no penalties if you subsequently break your green promises. There are no robust ways of measuring what you’re doing. No robust ways of verifying what you’re doing. There isn’t even a consistent definition of what is green and that suits the market very well because the banks and the lawyers and all the service providers are making very nice fees, thank you very much, from selling these bonds. Then they go off and win awards for doing that and they just love it. Everybody from oil companies to banks are piling in with questionable deals and that needs to stop because we are far from mobilizing the climate finance necessary to keep global warming below two degrees and we’re off by hundreds of billions of dollars.

But no, let’s go waste our time on feeling good by issuing paper and calling it green without regard to actually where the money is going – and while everybody involved makes fee income that they are very happy about, and then go to award ceremonies to celebrate how great they are. 

All bonds should be green and what we should be developing our solutions to ensure that is the case. Green bonds, frankly, should be phased out. The fig leaf that investors and banks and lawyers and others are using to feel good about themselves without making any difference whatsoever needs to be removed.

 

LYING CORPORATIONS

And now I’d like to talk about lying. So there is this coal company that went bankrupt recently in the United States. It was a major coal company called Cloud Peak Energy. It turns out from their bankruptcy papers that they have been funding climate change denialism everywhere in the United States (together with the rest of their industry). Now I don’t mind necessarily companies that are lobbying for a purpose, but I do mind companies that are deliberately spreading lies and falsehoods and threats against people and doing it under the table. And it is so ironic that it went bankrupt with all that paperwork out so that we can see exactly what they have been doing. So they have been funding think tanks that attack the link between burning fossil fuels and climate change, even though that’s been established for like over a hundred years. And they have been funding advocacy groups to undermine policies to allow us to shift towards renewable energy.

Basically they funded an enormous amount of outlets that are making lots and lots of noise in order to make us, the consumers, the citizens, confused about fossil fuels, about climate change, about renewable energy, and they have done it so well that they’ve gone bankrupt and they’re not the first ones to go bankrupt. They’re not going to be the last one because the days of call are over. I mean, these people have no shame. I don’t understand why spreading lies by corporates is not illegal. I don’t understand why spreading lies has no consequences. I mean, how do these people sleep at night?

Now in the forked tongue category, there’s also the wonderful people at British Petroleum. Now a forked tongue is to deliberately say one thing and mean another or to be hypocritical or act in a duplicitous manner. Pick any one of these for describing what BP is doing. So out comes the Chairman the other day with a newspaper article basically claiming that while the world is on an unsustainable path, BP is absolutely not to blame and it’s doing all the right things and committed to the climate Paris climate agreement and not chasing higher output and re purposing for a lower carbon future. Now that’s what the chairman says in writing in major newspapers. But what is BP actually doing? While its Chairman is feeding us hot air, BP is playing a key role in lobbying the Trump administration to allow oil and gas drilling in the Alaskan Arctic.

Now that’s very clear oil and gas drilling that we don’t need, that we don’t want, that we can’t have and that BP itself doesn’t need according to what it says. We also now know they have been lobbying Trump administration officials for years to open up more areas for drilling off the US coast. Then they’ve welcomed plans to lease the Arctic Beaufort Sea for oil and gas exploration. And that is absolutely the last thing that the planet needs. BP also backed the Trump administration’s move to begin oil and gas leasing within a highly sensitive area of the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, despite the threat this poses to the climate, to indigenous people, to the environment, and despite what it says itself in terms of its alleged commitment to the Paris climate agreement. Now I don’t understand, just like for the coal company, I don’t understand why spreading lies by corporations is not illegal. And I don’t understand why it has zero consequences. So for the people at BP, shame on you.

Thank you so much for listening to me, The Angry Clean Energy Guy.

My loser of the week is as you’ve just heard BP oil. Why? Because they’ve been lying and cheating and manipulating public opinion for years and years and years and they are not changing. Do not believe them when they say that they are changing. They are not.

My winner of the week is the electric bus. Yes. Just the simple electric bus. Worldwide we have 425,000 electric buses. Did you know that out of those 425,000 electric buses, 421,000 are in China. That means the rest of the world combined has just 4,000 electric buses. There is 300 of them in the US. There’s about 2,500 in Europe, basically nothing. Now, the reason the electric bus is the winner of the week is because electric buses are safe. They replace our other school and public transportation buses worldwide, which are generally fueled by diesel. What I don’t understand is why aren’t we replacing these other buses faster? We know diesel causes cancer. We know diesel causes respiratory diseases. We know diesel causes asthma and children asthma as well. Why are the people in charge of all the big cities in the world not switching to electric buses right now? They are cost effective and they save lives. It’s enough that we are in the middle of an ecological and climate catastrophe caused by us burning oil, gas, and coal in a crazy manner. Surely a mayor or a government official in charge of buying buses for their city or town can do the right thing.

Thank you for listening and don’t hesitate to send my way any questions you have about clean energy, climate change, or whatever makes you angry in the green space – and have a great week.

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About Me

There is so much to be angry about, if you are a clean energy guy.

Every day, so many things that happen around the world make me angry when I look at them with lenses colored by the climate change chaos unfolding everywhere around us. And I am especially angry because I know we can solve the climate change crisis if we were only trying.


Each week, I will share with you a few topics that struck me and that I was very angry about – and this will generally have to do with climate change, solar or wind power, plastic pollution, environmental degradation, wildlife, the oceans and other related topics.

Assaad Razzouk

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