Tagged: offshore

Republican Party wants to repeal law against offshore tax dodgers

The Republican Party is expected to approve a resolution this week, calling for repeal of an Obama administration law that is designed to crack down on offshore tax dodging…In what would be the party’s first appeal to scrap the law…

True to their dedication to time-wasting, we can expect 47 more attempts to follow another failure to make 19th Century capitalism the state religion.

Approved in 2010 after a tax-avoidance scandal involving a Swiss bank, FATCA requires most foreign banks and investment funds to report to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service information about U.S. customers’ accounts worth $50,000 or more…

Repeal seems unlikely, but more political heat from Republicans could further complicate and delay implementation, said financial industry lobbyists…

Defending the law, Treasury Department spokeswoman Erin Donar said in a statement: “FATCA continues to gain momentum and international support as we work with partners around the world to fight offshore tax evasion.”

In the tradition of rightwing politicians in American history, today’s Republicans want armies stationed around the world, highway and rail systems to move industrial products to market, a certain level of education [albeit minimal] and obedient Bob Cratchit-level bureaucrats to run the infrastructure – paid for exclusively by taxes on workingclass families, our ever-diminishing middle class. No taxes on wealthy individuals or corporations.

Perish the thought Republican family values include honesty, responsibility, paying your own way.

Tech contracts now requiring data storage offshore from USA

Firms in the UK and Canada are reportedly updating their cloud contracts to demand that their data be kept out of the US. The report doesn’t contain enough details, however, to say if this is a trend or an isolated incident.

Is this the backlash? A handful of companies are requiring cloud service providers to promise — in writing — that they won’t store any client data in the United States, according to Bloomberg.

The report says that a British grocery chain and a Canadian pharma company have responded to the ongoing US surveillance scandal by adding language to existing contracts that mandate suppliers to segment their data and keep it out of America.

The report of the revised contracts comes as the cloud computing industry continues to digest news that America’s National Security Agency is tapping underwater cables and infiltrating the servers of storage providers as part of a sweeping counter-terrorism program…

So does the Bloomberg report portend the start of a trend? It’s too soon to say. The report, which also claimed a Canadian agency had asked for the “no data in USA” clause, was based on a single source (an Indiana security firm known as Rook Consulting) and did not name any of the companies involved.

And, while such reports are eye-catching, they also provide a public relations opportunity for cloud providers outside of the US.. to drum up business. In the meantime, it’s unclear if European cloud providers have the capacity to take over existing large-scale data storage contracts, and to what degree companies’ existing cloud contracts dissuade them from switching services.

Are we to give thanks to the NSA for providing a great reason for offshoring business from the United States? Roberts’ article doesn’t ask the important question: What idiots in our government skipped past the question of how being the most intrusive Big Brother in the World would affect American businesses dependent on guaranteeing security to their clients?

If I was working in communications with valuable data there is no way on Earth I would trust an American corporation to provide me with anymore privacy than the American government seems to allow. Which is damned little.

Former Canadian officials consult on tax-dodging offshore

A CBC investigation found a former Canada Revenue Agency lawyer and a former Royal Bank of Canada executive giving advice on how to hide money offshore.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported…it turned up the tax-avoidance advisers during its undercover camera investigation into offshore banking practices.

The CBC and its French-language investigative program, Enquete, hired a private investigator to test 15 offshore service providers in Canada and abroad. The CBC said its experts assessed the advice given by the firms and found more than half provided advice that wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny concerning tax evasion.

The CBC said among those who doled out advice on how to avoid paying Canadian taxes in ways that wouldn’t pass regulators’ muster was Gilles Gosselin, who practiced law in Canada and used to work for the Canadian Revenue Agency before moving to Barbados, and Lynn Garner, a vice president with DGM, a private Barbados bank, who was once the trust manager for the Royal Bank of Canada in Barbados…

Gosselin told the CBC he told the network’s undercover investigator what he was contemplating was against the law in Canada…”But if he wants to go ahead and open a BVI company and manage his assets with the BVI company, until he’s actually gone there and done that, he hasn’t done anything wrong,” he said…

Garner initially told the undercover investigator her bank would never take a client seeking to avoid taxes, then proceeded to tell him how to go about doing just that, the CBC said.

Heartwarming to see former members of our northern neighbor’s government acting just like our own “late officials”.

Has Mitt Romney set up a consultancy in Ottawa, yet?

World’s wind turbines will pass the 300 gigawatt mark this year

The world will have enough wind turbines to generate more than 300 gigawatts of power – the equivalent of 114 nuclear power plants – by the end of the year, industry figures show.

As Brazil, China, Mexico and South Africa add turbines, the figure represents modest growth compared with a year ago, when the overall total capacity was just over 280 gigawatts…

Europe, which has led the world on wind, still represents around a third of all capacity, with more than 100 gigawatts, but its growth has been stalled by uncertainty as financial crisis has meant abrupt changes to subsidy regimes…

The most heated debate has been in Germany, ahead of elections in September, where the cost of energy and progress of implementing the nation’s Energiewende – or transition to green energy and away from nuclear fuel – are election issues.

Heavy industry has attacked renewable subsidies, arguing they add to costs and damage competitiveness, especially when the United States benefits from cheap shale gas.

Representatives of the renewable industry say they are working to produce energy that can compete economically with traditional sources, which would lower political risk.

They say they have made progress on onshore wind and solar, but for the huge scale of offshore wind, a technology still in its infancy, subsidies are essential, probably for the rest of the decade…

Wind energy executives note conventional fuel sources have long benefited from support in the form of tax breaks for oil and gas and government help in disposing of spent nuclear fuel.

State and federal subsidies have been part of construction costs for every kind of power station built in the last century. Not that the fact isn’t brought up as a special case by know-nothings who oppose reductions in the consumption of fossil fuel and the inevitable effects that has on environmental quality. Sometimes, subsidies are also added in to defray fuel costs, as well. Something never going to be needed by renewable sources like wind, solar and hydro.

Koch Brothers make a market in the dirtiest fuel on Earth


Click to enlarge

Assumption Park gives residents of this city lovely views of the Ambassador Bridge and the Detroit skyline. Lately they’ve been treated to another sight: a three-story pile of petroleum coke covering an entire city block on the other side of the Detroit River.

Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom…And no one knows quite what to do about it, except Koch Carbon, which owns it.

The company is controlled by Charles and David Koch, wealthy industrialists who back a number of conservative and libertarian causes including activist groups that challenge the science behind climate change. The company sells the high-sulfur, high-carbon waste, usually overseas, where it is burned as fuel.

The coke comes from a refinery alongside the river owned by Marathon Petroleum, which has been there since 1930. But it began refining exports from the Canadian oil sands — and producing the waste that is sold to Koch — only in November…

An initial refining process known as coking, which releases the oil from the tarlike bitumen in the oil sands, also leaves the petroleum coke, of which Canada has 79.8 million tons stockpiled. Some is dumped in open-pit oil sands mines and tailing ponds in Alberta. Much is just piled up there.

Detroit’s pile will not be the only one. Canada’s efforts to sell more products derived from oil sands to the United States, which include transporting it through the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, have pulled more coking south to American refineries, creating more waste product here…

Residents on both sides of the Detroit River are concerned that the coke mountain is both an environmental threat and an eyesore…

Coke, which is mainly carbon, is an essential ingredient in steelmaking as well as producing the electrical anodes used to make aluminum…While there is high demand from both those industries, the small grains and high sulfur content of this petroleum coke make it largely unusable for those purposes, said Kerry Satterthwaite, a petroleum coke analyst at Roskill Information Services, a commodities analysis company based in London.

It is worse than a byproduct,” Ms. Satterthwaite said.“It’s a waste byproduct that is costly and inconvenient to store, but effectively costs nothing to produce…”

The Environmental Protection Agency will no longer allow any new licenses permitting the burning of petroleum coke in the United States. But D. Mark Routt, a staff energy consultant at KBC Advanced Technologies in Houston, said that overseas companies saw it as a cheap alternative to low-grade coal. In China, it is used to generate electricity, adding to that country’s air-quality problems. There is also strong demand from India and Latin America for American petroleum coke, where it mainly fuels cement-making kilns.

“I’m not making a value statement, but it comes down to emission controls,” Mr. Routt said. “Other people don’t seem to have a problem, which is why it is going to Mexico, which is why it is going to China.”

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” he said. One of the world’s largest dealers of petroleum coke is the Oxbow Corporation, which sells about 11 million tons of fuel-grade coke a year. It is owned by William I. Koch, a brother of David and Charles.

The people who deal in this deadly waste, who care less than any other clique in American capitalism about the lives, lifestyle and lifespan of ordinary American citizens – stockpile this crap alongside a metropolitan river. After turning an extra profit from a dirty byproduct of the dirtiest fuel source on Earth – they couldn’t care less about the air and water they befoul where they store this petro-coke before shipping it off to be burned. Then, in turn, the Koch Bros. profit from fouling the air of the whole planet.

Global elite hide $21 trillion from tax collectors worldwide

A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary $21 trillion of wealth offshore – as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together – according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network.

James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer.

He shows that at least $21 trillion – perhaps up to $32 trillion – has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, “protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy”. According to Henry’s research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than $6.5 trillion in 2010, a sharp rise from $2.5 trillion five years earlier.

The detailed analysis in the report, compiled using data from a range of sources, including the Bank of International Settlements and the International Monetary Fund, suggests that for many developing countries the cumulative value of the capital that has flowed out of their economies since the 1970s would be more than enough to pay off their debts to the rest of the world…

The problem here is that “the assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments,” the report says…

Leaders of G20 countries have repeatedly pledged to close down tax havens since the financial crisis of 2008, when the secrecy shrouding parts of the banking system was widely seen as exacerbating instability. But many countries still refuse to make details of individuals’ financial worth available to the tax authorities in their home countries as a matter of course…

And here in the United States, we are told we should kneel and pray in the direction of the Republican Party, vote to elect a leading representative of the tax cheats this report is all about – to be president of the country.

Production rig in Gulf of Mexico explodes – UPDATED

A shallow-water production rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded this morning, causing the thirteen crew members aboard to abandon the structure.

Coast Guard rescuers are en route to the scene of the fire, 90 miles south of Vermilion Bay, Coast Guard Petty Officer Bill Colclough said. Twelve of the workers are in immersion suits, designed to protect them from hypothermia. One is reported injured.

Once plucked from the Gulf, the injured will be taken Terrebone General Medical Center in Houma, Colclough said.

A helicopter pilot for a private company named Bristow reported the rig on fire around 9:30 a.m.

The rig is an oil and gas production platform located in 340 feet of water in Vermillion Block 380, according to federal government records. The well was not producing any “product” at the time of the accident, Colclough said.

It is owned by Mariner Energy, headquartered in Houston…According to its website, Mariner is among the largest lease holders on the continental shelf with interests in approximately 240 federal leases and more than 30 state blocks, at year-end 2009…

With all the unwanted attention just starting to wane, members of industry groups were staggered by the latest accident today, even though it was on a much smaller scale and appears to have nothing to do with the deepwater drilling dangers that surrounded the BP incident.

First thoughts, of course, are for the poor buggers in the water. Latest news on TV sound positive. They have all been rescued.

Next, we get to deal with oil and gas industry safety procedures, offshore and onshore, which seem to be less and less sound every month.

UPDATE: The sheen/oil slick reported attendant upon the explosion hasn’t been confirmed to be from a leak or resulting from the explosion itself.

The crew reported to the Coast Guard that they had initiated shutdown procedures before abandoning the platform. The Coast Guard hasn’t yet succeeded in confirming success of the shutdown. But, it surely sounds better than it might have.

Offshore drilling faces actual review instead of a rubber stamp

The Obama administration said Monday that it would require significantly more environmental review before approving new offshore drilling permits, ending a practice in which government regulators essentially rubber-stamped potentially hazardous deepwater projects like BP’s out-of-control well.

The administration has come under sharp criticism for granting BP an exemption from environmental oversight for the Macondo well, which blew out on April 20, killing 11 workers and spewing nearly five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The more stringent environmental reviews are part of a wave of new regulation and legislation that promises to fundamentally remake an industry that has operated hand-in-glove with its government overseers for decades…

You can guess who’s the hand and who’s the glove.

Drillers are already chafing under a moratorium on deepwater drilling in the gulf and strict new rules on shallow-water wells. The new environmental rules provide a foretaste of what the regulatory climate will be once the moratorium is lifted later this year. The House and Senate are moving legislation that will tighten regulatory standards for offshore drilling and put a higher multibillion-dollar limit on liability for damages from any future oil spill.

The administration is moving on a parallel track. After three months of review of federal environmental law, the White House Council on Environmental Quality on Monday recommended that the Interior Department suspend use of so-called categorical exclusions, which allow oil companies to sink offshore wells based on environmental impact statements for supposedly similar areas, while the department reviews the environmental impact. Permits for the Macondo well were based on exemptions written in 1981 and 1986. The waiver granted to BP in April 2009, as part of the permitting process for the doomed well, was based on the company’s claim that a blowout was unlikely and that if a spill did occur, it would cause minimal damage.

The Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service, recently renamed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, issued hundreds of these exemptions in recent years to reduce the paperwork burden for oil companies seeking new wells and for government workers. As a result, there was no meaningful plan in place to cope with the BP spill and its impact on aquatic life and gulf shorelines.

This is the how and why that Mussolini always said that fascism should be called corporatism.

When the state and federal governments say nothing more than “how high” whenever corporations say “jump” – the result as defined by most legislation from Congress, rolled out in practice via regulatory agencies from the Interior Department to the SEC – is eventual disaster.

The cost in context, in environment, in jobs, in degradation of lifestyle and standing for working people and the middle class is exactly what you should expect. At least, if you ignore the lies of our politicians and collaboration of the press.

US-Canada Arctic border central to exploiting maritime riches


Like a couple of cop cars in a parking lot sharing doughnuts

Canada and the United States are beginning a five-week joint Arctic survey, part of which will take place in a section of the energy-rich Beaufort Sea that is claimed by both countries.

The survey is intended to help the neighbours determine the extent of their continental shelves.

The bi-national study is part of an ongoing race by the Arctic nations – the US, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark – to gather evidence to submit claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

It could grant them exploitation rights to potential energy and mineral wealth above and below the sea floor.

Currently, coastal nations can claim exploitation rights in an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – a 200-mile (322km) nautical area beyond their land territory.

If the Arctic nations can prove that their submerged territory extends beyond 200 miles, they could gain access to vast untapped resources which lie beneath the pristine waters of the polar region…

The most absurd crap rationale for exploitation and profit since the 19th Century.

Continue reading

Offshore energy devices create artificial reefs, fish habitat

Offshore wind power and wave energy foundations can increase local abundances of fish and crabs. The reef-like constructions also favour for example blue mussels and barnacles. What’s more, it is possible to increase or decrease the abundance of various species by altering the structural design of foundation. This was shown by Dan Wilhelmsson of the Department of Zoology, Stockholm University, in a recently published dissertation.

“Hard surfaces are often hard currency in the ocean, and these foundations can function as artificial reefs. Rock boulders are often placed around the structures to prevent erosion (scouring) around these, and this strengthens the reef function.”

A major expansion of offshore wind power is underway along European coasts, and the interest is growing in countries such as the US, China, Japan, and India. Moreover, wave power technologies are being developed very rapidly. Many thousand wind and wave power plants grouped in large arrays that each cover several square kilometers can be expected. How marine life will react to this is not clear, but several research projects investigating the impacts of noise, shadows, electromagnetic fields, and changes in hydrology etc. are underway.

Dan Wilhelmsson studied how offshore wind turbines constitute habitats for fish, crabs, lobsters, fouling animals, and plants. He shows that wind turbines, even without scour protection, function as artificial reefs for bottom dwelling fish. The seabed in the vicinity of wind turbines had higher densities of fish compared to further away from the turbines and in reference areas. This was despite that the natural bottoms were rich in boulders and algae. Blue mussels dominated on the wind turbines that appeared to offer good growth conditions.

Wave power foundations, too, constituting massive concrete blocks, proved to attract fish and large crabs. Blue mussels fall down from the surface buoys and become food for animals on the foundations and on the adjacent seabed. Lobsters also settle under the foundations.

Sport-fishermen learned all this decades ago with the introduction of offshore drilling and production platforms. There ain’t a subsistence fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico that doesn’t head for the nearest oil platform if he wants fish for dinner.