Top Stories

August 30, 2017


Harvey’s toll on energy industry shows a Texas vulnerability

Energy experts have raised questions coastal Texas’ role as a hub for the environmentally-sensitive refinery and chemical industries. Texas and Louisiana are crucial links to the vast inland and offshore oil and gas resources, but hurricane Harvey has exposed the region’s vulnerability to storms, which are becoming more extreme with climate change. The damage is wide ranging: escaping gasoline from a submerged roof at a Phillips 66 storage tank; a sinking tank roof at Exxon Mobil’s vast refinery in Baytown, causing the release of hazardous gases above permitted levels; and a lightning strike at a Dow Chemical plant that led to toxic-gas releases. It has underscored how the companies, often held responsible for contributing to global warming, could increasingly suffer from its effects. Some critics have suggested the havoc highlights oil companies’ lack of transparency on their readiness to weather the climate change impacts. A 2015 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists identified Exxon Mobil’s facility as one of the country’s refineries most vulnerable to flooding. (NY Times)


Online betting companies urged to tackle problem gambling

People with online gambling problems spend an average of £98 a day, compared with £14 among those not at risk, and are more likely to gamble at night, according to a new report by the industry-funded charity Gamble Aware. More than 10,000 online customers of companies including Ladbrokes, Bet365, William Hill and Sky Betting and Gaming allowed access to their data for the study. Young, unmarried men who are looking for work are considered most at risk of developing an addiction. Campaigners said companies have been too slow to address the issue as a “huge proportion of their revenue comes from problem gambling”, explained Labour MP Carolyn Harris. A government report on controversial fixed-odds betting terminals is due in October, but it will not cover online gambling, which accounts for about 40% of the £15bn UK industry. Gamble Aware said its research can help companies intervene immediately at the point a player begins to gamble online in a risky way, for example by freezing accounts or sending instant pop-up messages. (Guardian)


Kenya imposes world’s toughest law against plastic bags

Kenyans producing, selling or even using plastic bags will now risk imprisonment of up to four years or fines of $40,000. The East African nation joins more than 40 other countries that have banned, partly banned or taxed single use plastic bags, including China, France, Rwanda, and Italy. Plastic bags have entered the human food chain in Kenya through fish and other animals. In Nairobi’s slaughterhouses, some cows destined for human consumption had 20 bags removed from their stomachs. It took Kenya three attempts over ten years to finally pass the ban, as Kenya is a major exporter of plastic bags to the region. Samuel Matonda, spokesman for the Kenya Association of Manufacturers said it would cost 60,000 jobs and force 176 manufacturers to close. Big Kenyan supermarket chains like Nakumatt and France’s Carrefour have started offering customers cloth bags as alternatives. (Reuters)


Australia’s proposed clean energy target found too weak for Paris climate goal

The 28% clean energy target recommended by Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, will not deliver the country’s obligations under the Paris agreement and will only transfer pressure to other sectors, according to new analysis by the firm Reputex. It comes as the government’s difficult deliberations over the Finkel review are set to resume amid pressures from energy companies to respond to the review to address rising electricity bills and climate change exposure. The new modelling shows that the emissions reduction trajectory would only phase out emissions between 2095-2101. A 45% clean energy target would deliver zero emissions by 2045, while a 63% target would phase out emissions by 2035 and assist in broader economic transformation for the transport and manufacturing sectors. The Australian Conservation Foundation’s chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, noted that any solution for electricity will have to “be part of an overall strategy to tackle pollution from industry, transport and the land”. (Guardian)

Corporate Reputation

Uber reportedly cooperating with U.S. investigation on possible overseas bribes

Uber is reportedly cooperating with a Justice Department investigation into whether the ride-hailing company bribed foreign officials. The probe adds to a long list of issues, as Uber has endured months of turmoil from companywide sexual harassment investigations and the resignation of its chief executive notably. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits companies from paying off leaders of other countries to win favour in business. It is unclear what action investigators may be reviewing, but Uber has publicly faced questions about how it obtained medical records of a ride-sharing passenger in India, who alleged that her driver raped her in 2014. Earlier this year, reports emerged that the Justice Department was looking into allegations that Uber employed tactics to circumvent law enforcement investigations into its practice. (LA Times)


Image Source: Exxon Mobil refinery in Baytown, TX by Roy Luck at Flickr. CC 2.0.