In addressing the recent oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico, the US government has swung into action, mobilising the military and high-level officials for months on end. But roughly 350 miles east, the slow-motion environmental disaster above Houston continues unabated.
Because air pollution is not only invisible, but its impact on health and the environment is not immediate, it provokes little outrage; there are no images of oil-soaked birds or devastated fishermen to provoke media ire and political action.
In Houston, the energy capital of the world, there are 497 industrial facilities with a total of 27,463 flares, boilers and the like, emitting chemicals that have been linked with everything from nervous system damage to cancer. And yet environmentalists have been fighting a tough battle bringing attention to this cause.
Robert Sanborn, president of Children at Risk, a think-tank dedicated to improving the lives of Houston’s chilldren, explains:
In Texas, we do put business first. This is a good case of David and Goliath, and the state pays attention to Goliath. It’s a reality of Texas. The oil industry is the lifeblood of Houston. It’s the lifeblood of Texas industry.
Prepare for a media scrum next Wednesday. Tony Hayward, BP’s outgoing chief executive, will be grilled by the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee next week as part of its inquiry into the risks of deepwater drilling in the UK following the company’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
It will be Mr Hayward’s first appearance in public for several weeks and will no doubt be watched closely not just by the rest of the oil industry but also by lawmakers in the US. Mr Hayward’s was grilled mercilessly by a House of Representatives committee in Washington, DC in June over the accident on April 20 which killed 11 workers.
Expect next week’s evidence session to be somewhat less antagonistic: not only is Mr Hayward being replaced by Bob Dudley in October but since that time BP has also capped the Macondo well and is in the process of finally sealing it completely.
As Asia’s major economies bound forward and their hunger for energy surges over the next decade, Indonesia is strategically positioned to take advantage as the world’s largest exporter of coal. It is also neatly placed geographically, on the doorsteps (well, almost) of China and India.
Rudi Vann, a leading coal analyst at Wood Mackenzie, told beyondbrics he expects Indonesian coal production to rise nearly 90 percent to 480m tonnes by 2020. By striking deals to sell it in exchange for infrastructure financing, Indonesia is using the resource to fix its own crumbling roads, ports, bridges – and its power plants too.
As you might expect, the competition to secure Indonesian coal is being led by China and India, as the FT reports on Thursday. Companies from the two countries signed a series of deals in recent months to finance billions of dollars in Indonesian infrastructure projects in exchange for thermal coal.
Elsewhere this Thursday:
- BP will find National Commission far tougher
- Who is buying Iran’s oil?
- The nearly forgotten Mariner explosion is just as bad as the BP oil spill
- A regenerative feat for solar cells
- Natural gas from shale rock promises energy revolution